The Importance of Knowing Dog Body Language

body language in dogsOne of the biggest mistakes people make with dogs is to assume they think and act like humans because they have been raised with them and are treated like family members. This is one of the reasons dog bite incidents are so prevalent in America. In other countries even non-dog families educate their children that dogs are dogs first.

Dogs speak with body language using calming signals that most people do not see due to ignorance. These signals are given well before a bite or other “aggressive” behavior is used by a dog. As a whole dogs want to avoid confrontations. As dog owners it falls on us to not only learn our own dogs body language and educate our own family on proper interaction with other dogs, but to educate others while we are out with our own dogs.

It is important in your training as well. Knowing when your dog is overwhelmed, tired, afraid or even confused will save you endless aggravation for both you and your dog. Panting, yawning, looking away, whale eyes, or even lip licking are all ways your dog is trying to let you know all is not well.

Avoidance by your dog is a signal something is amiss. I can be mental or physical so if your normally happy worker starts avoiding certain maneuvers or obstacles don’t jump to the conclusion they are being difficult. It just might be that they have an injury or something has happened in the training that they are now avoiding it at all costs.

For a really thorough description of body language in dogs go to ASPCA website to learn more about the wayd dogs use their eyes, ears, mouth, tail and body to communicate with you, others and other dogs.


Since our dogs can’t tell us with words when they’re feeling afraid or uncomfortable, it’s up to each and every one of us to understand the language they do speak – body language!

Some of the signs of fear and anxiety are quite obvious – others are much more subtle.

We very often hear “the dog just snapped out of nowhere!” But, that’s rarely the case. Dogs have a wide variety of “tells,” subtle body language that, if you’re familiar with it, will alert you to a dog’s comfort level.

Study this simple, easy to remember infographic from renowned trainer Sophia Yin. Then watch your own dogs and the dogs you interact with – do you recognize any of these subtle signs of fear or anxiety?