Most of the time, dog owners are at a loss at understanding dog gestures. It is as if they try learning a completely different language.

However, the key to get a better understanding of how your dog feels entails reading his body language. A dog’s body language makes use of their ears, eyes, mouth and typically, the tail.

So, how do dogs display their emotions via their body?


dog, attack, aggressive

Typically, a dog displays dominance when they seek to protect their kin or territory. Male dogs also do this when they fight over a female dog’s attention, especially during mating season. They display this by:

  • Tail held straight up and away from the body
  • Leaning stance
  • Bristled hair
  • Upright ears
  • Bared teeth
  • Piercing and confident stare (intense stare towards the target)
  • Walks on toes

Do not attempt to involve yourself in a staring contest with them in this state. They interpret this as a challenge.


Dogs get excited over many things. They get excited upon seeing you enter the house. They also get excited over a tasty treat or snack. They show this by:

  • Tail up and wagging vigorously
  • Front legs firmly placed on the ground
  • Expectant stare
  • May bark, but not in a threatened tone
  • Head inclined either to the left or right side
  • Mouth forms a partial “O”

If you see them doing this, get down to business and play with them.


scared, dog, looking

Dogs also feel fear in certain situations, especially if it is completely unfamiliar to them. They will generally display these gestures if they are fearful of something:

  • Tail down and tucked in between the legs
  • Ears down or flat
  • May bare teeth or raise their hackles
  • Crouched down posture
  • Averted gaze
  • May urinate a bit (just like humans do when feeling immensely fearful)

Take these tips as a guide for precise interpretation. At least you now have a clearer picture of how they feel more or less.

Learning is a two-way process, so keep on practicing your interpretation skills. Everything will just fall into place.


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