The 10 Most Important Signals of Dog Body Language

Dogs communicate with each other as well as with humans. They use their body language as well as their spoken language. We have compiled the 10 most important signals of dog body language.

Body language is the most important form of canine communication and is mostly used in combination with other forms of communication. Puppies learn the subtle nuances of physical expression through early socializing with other dogs. But misunderstandings can also occur among dogs. This is due to the different physiques due to the breed, i.e. if, for example, tails are particularly short or ringed.

However, somebody signals are unmistakable and should be recognized by us humans and heeded accordingly. This is important for several reasons: Firstly, this is the only way for human-dog communication to work without misunderstandings. Secondly, the dog owner must also be able to understand when his dog feels uncomfortable in situations with other dogs or people. Then it is his job to protect his dog and solve the situation for him. In this way, he strengthens his dog’s trust and the human-dog bond.

We have compiled the 10 most important body language signals that you will encounter again and again in everyday life here for you.

1. Fix

The dog’s gaze is fixed on the other person. The whole body is under tension. The head is very still. This behavior is called “fixing” and is a form of imposing and threatening behavior. Fixing is often followed by other behaviors to deter the other person, such as snapping in the air.

2. Pre-body low position

Most of the time, the front body bend in dogs is a play prompt, but it can also be used to calm things down. Here it is important to assess the entire situation. In herding dogs, this position is part of the natural herding behavior.

3. Frozen Motion

Freezing in motion is a powerful calming behavior that the dog uses in hopes that a situation will ease up again. He just doesn’t want to be noticed anymore, almost disappear from the face of the earth. This behavior can be observed towards approaching conspecifics, but also during training with humans, when the mood for the dog becomes too emotional or aggressive.

4. Paws

Raising or angling the front paw has many different meanings. On the one hand, it is a sign that the dog is overwhelmed in a situation, for example when it is stressed by being too close. But pawing can also be intrusive and challenging when the dog demands attention. It is also used in game situations. Here it is important to observe the overall situation and the overall posture of the dog with ears, tail position and facial expressions.

5. T position

In the T position there are always two dogs involved. They are (approximately) at a 90 degree angle to each other, which is why they form a kind of “T”. This position can have many different meanings. It always depends on the context:

  • Offensive T pose with eye contact: show of power, dog wants to show strength but also with insecure dogs who haven’t learned to communicate properly (escalates more often)
  • Defensive T stance: used by strong leaders who don’t need to engage in interaction
  • Shielding T position: used for protection, for example of puppies
  • Submissive T-position (dog moves under partner’s head and neck area and remains standing):
  • Establishing contact between attachment partners
  • T-position as a game request: Dogs stand (or one is lying) across each other, chins are placed, shoulders are jostled.

A human and a dog can also stand in a T-position to each other. The dog then stands at right angles to people, often leaning against their legs. This is a friendly attitude with attachment partners, but an unfriendly gesture with strangers, which is supposed to say something like “go away”.

6. Walk in an arc

Dogs very rarely approach each other directly. They approach in an arc, a sign of de-escalation, a cautious approach. The opposite is signaled that one does not want to provoke. In the shortened form, for example on a leash, dogs often turn their bodies away from each other in an arcing motion.

7. Lick the muzzle

Licking one’s mouth is a common body language signal and is used by insecure dogs, for example. In addition, the dog’s ears are usually turned back and its gaze averted. This should soothe the other person and appear humble. This body language signal should not be confused with cleaning the mouth after eating.

8. Turn your head away

This typical body language signal of dogs can be seen, for example, when the dog feels pressured by humans by bending over them, hugging or similar, or when two dogs meet.

The dog turns its head in the opposite direction. He doesn’t give his counterpart the cold shoulder. In the canine world, this is a sign of politeness, sometimes just hinted at. Only dogs that know and trust each other really well will approach each other with a direct gaze. Averting the head is a gesture for the dog to defuse a situation before it becomes tricky.

9. Yawning

Dogs show this signal very often and for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it’s a natural sign of fatigue. Yawning also helps four-legged friends to calm down and relax themselves in a stressful situation. Incidentally, they also yawn to have a calming effect on the other person.

10. Sniffing the ground

Dogs love to sniff, as this is how they explore their area and smell other dogs. Sniffing can also have another meaning. It’s not about chasing after a particularly interesting smell. On closer inspection, the nose is just above the ground, but the gaze is on the other person, even if sometimes only out of the corner of the eye. It’s usually a combination of reassurance, such as another dog being too pushy, and a skipping action.

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