A Dog’s Body Language (Part 1)

Part 1 of knowing the postures and body language of a pet or stray dog.

Dogs don’t speak English or Swahili, but they do communicate extensively with their body language. Instead of focusing on them learning your language, learn theirs. It’s important that you know your stray and/or pet dog and decide on how to interact with him/her.

Relaxed posture

Two relaxed doggos. Photo from Pixabay.

A relaxed dog displays a natural body posture. This dog is not worried or threatened by what is going on in his immediate surroundings. He is content and reasonably happy. Knowing what a dog looks and acts like when he displays this posture serves as a foundation for determining his other behaviours.

Examples of this would be:

  • Eyes relaxed and slowly blinking
  • Ears pricked (up) but not forward, or relaxed, slightly down and “back”
  • Mouth loose, corners relaxed, mouth may be slightly open
  • Tongue may be slightly visible or hanging over lower teeth
  • Soft muscle tone
  • Weight evenly distributed on all four feet
  • Tail down and even, may show relaxed sweeping back and forth

Alert posture

This dog is alert.

An alert dog is aroused by something interesting going on in his environment. He stands at attention, ready to react depending on what happens next.

Examples of this would be:

  • Eyes wide open, alert eye contact (however, this might signal aggression from a strange dog)
  • Ears pricked and forward, may move back and forth
  • Mouth closed
  • Tail pointing away from dog, almost horizontal, not stiff or bristled
  • Leans body slightly forward
  • Stands tall on toes

We will be covering other important things to know about a dog’s body language next week. Stay tuned!

Did you find this information useful? Visit VOSD for more medical, legal, behavioural, and general advice on dogs.