Understanding Dog Body Language

It is rare to find someone who doesn't like dogs at all. After all, they are called "man's best friend" for a reason. However, that doesn't always mean that they are friendly. Dogs are animals, and with that comes animal instincts and behavior that we as humans need to be mindful of.

If you see someone walking a dog or a stray dog on its own, there are ways you should and should not approach it in order to respect the animal's boundaries and determine if it is friendly or not.

The first thing you need to do before approaching a dog is to observe its body language. There are some telltale signs that will let you know if a dog is feeling threatened or anxious.

  • If a dog's tail is in between its legs it most likely feels threatened.
  • If the dog is licking its lips consistently it could be a sign of anxiety.
  • Changing its weight forward with its tail stiff raised and back arched is a sign of aggression.
  • Bared teeth is a
  • direct sign of aggression.
  • Hair standing up with its ears erect and tilted forward shows anger.
  • There are also many variations of a dog's body language to watch to see if the dog is happy and relaxed.
  • A wagging tail is the most recognizable sign of a happy and friendly dog.
  • If a dog is panting it is most likely relaxed.
  • Bowing forward is a sign of playfulness.
  • When a dog faces a person indirectly or turning away shows relaxation and respect.
  • A dog wiggling its body or creating an S-curve shape is overjoyed.

These body cues will let you know if a dog is friendly or not. So next time you see a dog roaming outside or even on a leash, pay attention to these signals to stay aware and safe.

For more information on dog bites, see our page on Dog Bite Injury.