Read your dog's body language

One of the reasons dogs make such good pets is their ability to communicate with us. In fact, they’re often better at understanding us than we are at reading their body language. But if you can tune in to your dog’s posture, ears, mouth, fur and tail, you should be able to understand.

Lopsided grin: “Let’s be friends!”
Lips drawn back to expose teeth: “Don’t come any closer!”
As above, with a growl: “I’m warning you!”

Ears pricked up: “What’s up?”
Ears held back or flattened: “Help, I’m not sure about this.”

Eyes narrowed: “Isn’t life great!” or “I’m just a little pup, please be nice!”
Eyes wide open: “Just let me at that postman/cat/squirrel/rubber chicken!”

Front paw raised: “Let’s play!”

Quick bow, plus barking: “Play with me now!”
Bounding around you or another dog: “Let’s chase!”

Bristling appearance - ears, tail and hackles all up: “I’m top dog!”
As above, plus wags tail slowly and growls: “And don’t you forget it!”

Crouching, tail held low and wagging exaggeratedly: “You’re the boss!”
As above, with licking: “I’m your loyal best friend!”
Rolling over onto back: “My fate is in your hands!”

Tail wagging freely: “I’m happy! Let’s be friends!”
Tail wagging horizontally, slowly and stiffly: “Watch out, I might bite!”
Tail clamped low over hindquarters: “I’m frightened!”
Tail wagging while hanging down: “I’m sorry!”

(Some breeds, like Whippets and the Greyhounds, naturally carry their tail in the clamped-down position. But generally, a tail held at higher than 45 degrees to the spine shows interest and alertness.)

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