How do Canines Communicate with us? A look at Body Language

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We, as humans relate to the world around us and our dogs do too! The difference is, whilst we primarily communicate verbally through language, our dogs mainly communicate via body language and secondarily through vocalisation including barking, growling and the like.

Our dogs’ body language includes their facial expressions, the eye, the tail carriage, ear position and body position and movement. Knowledge of body language, and the ability to accurately identify it, will help decipher what a dog is trying to communicate and ensure an optimum relationship with your canine friend.   

When observing a dog’s body language to determine what is being communicated, it is crucial to observe the entire dog, as well as the situation and context. This ensures a truly accurate picture is gained, as for example, simply a wagging tail does not necessarily mean a friendly dog!

We all get to know our own dogs, but when meeting other canines, especially if you are with young children, it is wise to be aware of the ‘red flag’ signs that means the other dog should not be approached; look out for these body language ‘cues’. An anxious dog's eyes can be wide and staring - the canine may avoid eye-contact. Ears may be held slightly back as they try to gather clues about possible danger - if you’re with a child for example, the dog may be worried that the child may be a foe - very young children often grab dogs’ faces. The anxious dog may lick their lips and yawn nervously, while their body and tail are probably still, and in a slightly lowered posture. An angry dog has a stiff, upright body with flattened ears - their mouth will probably be open and their lips will be tense, probably showing their teeth. They mean business, and may vocalise with barking and growling as well, just in case you weren’t sure of their intent!

Our friends at Purina Dog Foods have this great advice for spotting a happy canine - 

“Happiness is one of the easiest dog emotions to spot, and it’s definitely a favourite expression for your furry family friend. Your dog’s eyes are gentle and in soft-focus, with a relaxed forehead, and their ears are floppy if they’re running, or moving backwards and forwards in an engaging, friendly manner. Dogs can’t actually smile, but some do appear to grin. Their lips are loose, their mouth slightly open and their tongue will probably poke out as they pant evenly and gently. A dog’s tail is a great indicator of their mood – a waggy tail usually means a happy dog! If they’re wagging their tail so vigorously it seems that their entire back legs are shaking, then it means they’re very happy indeed. A happy dog moves in a relaxed, easy way, and will encourage you to play and share their happiness.”

Scientific Nutritional Products provides a range of canine and equine supplements. If you would like to find out more about Glucosamine for Dogs Canine Joint Right Supplement, visit

Alternatively, contact our nutritional expert Peter Fishpool on Tel: 01377 254900 or FREEPHONE 0800 032 7774 to receive one-to-one nutritional advice specific to your dog.
We love sharing our expertise - to see a range of horsey articles videos and reviews concerning lots of other equestrian and countryside matters, visit Horse and Countryside Online.

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