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How to Read a Dog's Body Language

On Saturday, June 22nd, at an Adoption event in Montclair, our founder spoke to over 200 dog lovers about deciphering a dog's body language.


Dogs are amazingly expressive animals and by paying attention to Eyes, Ears, Tongue, and Tail everyone should be able to get a glimpse into the emotional and physical state of their beloved pooch.

Dilated Pupils are a sign of stress, anxiety, and fear. When a dog is in a normal emotional state, eyes should be fully open and focused.
Ears back and flat are another sign of stress and fear. A dog in a normal emotion state will have their ears either straight up or down and relaxed. Ears pointed forward is an indication of high alertness and aggression.
A dog's tongue should be visible when a dog is in a normal or playful emotional state. A dog that is licking obsessively is nervous and fearful. A fearful or stressed dog will keep their mouth closed. An aggressive dog will show their teeth and not their tongue.
A wagging tail, unlike common knowledge, is not a sign of playfulness. A moving or wagging tail indicates anticipation, good and bad. Pay attention to the shape and location of the tail. Straight tail is a sign of alertness or aggression. A tail that is bent upwards and is not tucked under the legs indicates a normal and positive emotional state. A tucked tail or tail that is bent inwards are signs of stress and fear.

Armed with this knowledge, we can be more responsible and responsive down owners and handlers. Dogs can quickly move from one state to another and it is critical to be fully attentive to our own dogs and approaching or nearby dogs.


The image below shows 8 common emotional states of dogs:

  1. Relaxed and Approachable,

  2. Alert and Checking Things Out,

  3. Dominant and Aggressive,

  4. Fearful and Aggressive,

  5. Stressed and Distressed,

  6. Fearful and Worried,

  7. Extreme Fear and Submission, and

  8. Playfulness

LECA Guide to Dog Body Language

Thanks again to Weichert Realty for organizing this tremendous event. Check out pictures from the event here.

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