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Canine Body Language Chart

Following are some common behaviors and what they look like. Since this is a generalized chart, and your dog is a unique individual, he or she may not display all of these traits. But you can use this information to get an idea of what to look for in your dog and what feelings they are showing. As your relationship with your dog grows stronger, it will become easier to know what they are trying to say.

Canine Body Language Chart
Aggressive Body Language


Ears - Back, close to head
Eyes - Narrow or staring challengingly.
Mouth/teeth - Lips open, drawn back to expose teeth bared in a snarl. Possible jaw snapping.
Body - Tense. Upright. Hackles on neck up. Completely dominant position.
Tail Straight out from body. Fluffed up.
Vocalization - Snarl. Growl. Loud bark.

Alert Body Language


Ears - Perked-up. Turning to catch sounds.
Eyes - Open normally or wide.
Mouth/teeth - Mouth closed or slightly open with teeth covered.
Body - Normal. Possible standing on tiptoe. Slightly dominant position.
Tail - Up. Possibly wagging.
Vocalization - None. Low whine or alarm bark.

Dominant Body Language


Ears - Up straight or forward
Eyes - Wide open, staring, direct contact.
Mouth/teeth - Mouth closed or slightly open.
Body - Very tall posture. May drape head over another dog's shoulders. Hackles may be up.
Tail - Stiffened and fluffed. Up or straight out from body.
Vocalization - Low, assertive growl or grunt.

Guarding Body Language


Ears - Perked up. Forward.
Eyes - Wide open, alert.
Mouth/teeth - Mouth slightly open, teeth bared.
Snapping or gnashing of teeth.
Body - Tense. Rigid. Hackles up. Standing very tall in an aggressive or dominant stance.
Tail - Rigid. Held straight out from body. Sometimes fluffed.
Vocalization - Loud, alert bark. Growl. Snarl.

Fearful Body Language


Ears - Laid back flat and low on head.
Eyes - Narrowed, averted. Possibly rolled back in head, whites showing, dilated pupils.
Mouth/teeth - Lips drawn back to expose teeth.
Body - Tense. Crouched low in submissive position. Shivering, trembling. Frozen in one place. Possible secretion from anal scent glands.
Tail - Down between legs.
Vocalization - Low, worried yelp, whine or growl.

Playful Body Language


Ears - Perked up and forward or relaxed.
Eyes - Wide open.
Mouth/teeth - Relaxed and slightly open, teeth covered. Excited panting.
Body - Relaxed, or front end lowered, rear end up in the air, wiggling in a play-bow. Excited bouncing or jumping up and down. Circling around and forward as an invitation to play.
Tail - Wagging vigorously.
Vocalization - Excited barking. Soft play-growling.

Relaxed Body Language


Ears - Perked up.
Eyes - Wide open. Alert look.
Mouth/teeth - Relaxed, possibly slightly open, "smiling" mouth.
Body - Normal. Still, or possible wiggling of whole rear end.
Tail - Up or out from body. Wagging.
Vocalization - Whimpering, yapping, or short, high bark.

Submissive Body Language


Ears - Down, flattened against head.
Eyes - Narrowed to slits or wide open, whites showing.
Mouth/teeth - Lips pulled away back from teeth in a "grin". Nuzzling or licking other animal or person on face.
Body - Lowered to ground, front paw raised. Lying on back, belly up. Possible urine leaking/dribbling. Possible emptying of anal scent glands.
Tail - Down, between legs.
Vocalization - None or low, worried whining. Possible yelping/ whimpering in fear.