How to Read Your Dog




Introduction: How to Read Your Dog

About: I've been training dogs since I was 8 years old. I love Border Collies, Dachshunds, and bully breeds. I train in agility, obedience, and rally-o

Dog's can't talk, howl and bark yes but talk no.
So they can only speak to us through their body language. Sadly many people cannot read a dog's body language. 
Which can make teaching and understanding your dog's behavior extremely difficult. 

Step 1: Content, Happy, Interested

We usually know these signs, but for those who don't here you go
(Order of Pictures)
Ears are relaxed or up and the dog's tail maybe wagging. Most dogs whom are happy will be panting, some not. Dogs maybe concentrated on a toy or treat.

Very similar to happy. Ears are relaxed, dog's muscles are relaxed. Dog is usually laying down or sitting. 

Ears are erect, eyes are wide, muscles are tense.

Step 2: Fear

Fear is often missed by some people. But for others it sticks out.

Dog is tense. Avoiding eye contact, ears are flattened to head. May be hiding in a corner or is lying down and is keeping to themselves.  Dog is cowering, tail between legs. Head is lowered and eyes are wide or closed. Dog may be panicking running around and barking, depends on the dog. 


Step 3: Dangerous Signs

This covers the signs that can lead to a bite. 
Not all dogs are the same so sometimes the warning are different for different dogs.

1. The first thing you have to take into account is the situation. If the dog is stressed or is in a tight situation do NOT put a hand or your face next to a dog's mouth. If the dog is not yours and you have permission by the owner allow the dog to sniff your hand and wait until the dog has finished sniffing it to touch him. ALWAYS PUT YOUR HAND UNDER THE DOG'S CHIN when you are allowing him to sniff. Over the head = dominance.

2. If the dog cowers, don't touch him. Cowering  is a sign of fear, fear is a sign of stress. 
3. Ears, if they are back it's not OK to touch him.
4. Averting eyes. A dog will acknowledge you by looking you in the eyes. This is a sign of respect, he sees you as an equal. If he doesn't hold eye contact he is not interested and it's not a good idea to touch him.
5. Teeth, everyone knows if a dog shows you his teeth don't touch him. EVER! It is completely dangerous! But if you choose you to teach a dog a lesson and move towards him; YOU WILL BE BITTEN! A dog will accept a challenge, especially if a stranger is challenging him. 


To set one thing straight there are no dogs the have EVER been made to attack a person without training. And in the case of the reporter Kyle Dyers she missed several signs of body language the dog tried to express.   the "attack"

Step 4: Questions?

I didn't go over a lot of the signs and some dogs have odd situations where they will act a certain way only in a certain situation. 

I adopt dogs and rescue them. 
I enjoy teaching dogs and learning more about them everyday! 

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    7 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I don't think I agree with your interpretations. Sorry. A tail wagging can mean a variety of things. It depends on the direction, the speed, and the mast. Panting can be stress induced or due to a dog being winded, tired or thirsty. A stress induced pant is usually indicated by a spatulate shape to the tongue.

    This is why relying on just your interpretations may not be the best idea. There are several text books out there on this topic. I suggest you check out the dogwise website and purchase them if you're really interested. There's no such thing as too much education to compliment your personal experience.


    7 years ago

    I think it's great that you rescue dogs! I really enjoyed the instructable! I own a rescued black lab. She makes that same face when she's scared! Awesome info! Thanks :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I took in a rescue lab that had lived tied to an old truck in Bemidji MN for six years. Whenever the man got mad at his wife, he would go out and beat her dog. The people who took the dog used to say "She smiles at me all the time." No, she's warning you. She was very food aggressive, but when I gave her food, she wouldn't look at it. But she would eat like crazy after I closed the door. I think they tempted her with food to beat her. If I grabbed her collar to get her to go outside or something, she would throw herself over backwards and crawl away. I had her for about four years, until she got cancer in her throat and had to be put down. She never showed her teeth to me, but it was three years until she would accept food out of my hand, instead of closing the door first. She spent her time sleeping on the couch, laying in the grass in the backyard, watching the birds fly over, and wagging her tail while laying there. She spent a wonderful four years, no stress, she eventually trusted me and I could feed her from my hand. We used to go to the local Dairy Dandy and I'd buy her a cone. Their ice cream is lowfat yogurt based. Most dogs I know lick the ice cream, not for her. She ate it in one bite. lol. I sure miss her.

    Dogs and Songs
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    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for sharing your story and helping an animal in need! :)
    i have taken in several pit bulls from bad homes, as well as trained many so they have better chances of getting adopted. It is quite interesting and fascinating how time can heal some deep scars in animals. They can feel you mean no harm but still the mental scars rule the dog for a while until they can break free and truly connect with you!

    Dogs and Songs
    Dogs and Songs

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The interpretations of the behaviors are based off of what i've encountered after 6 years of rehabilitation of dogs who have have been marked as "dangerous" dogs. I'm sorry you don't feel that i am correct but most dog behaviorists will tell you a simliar analyzation of the dog's behavior. As well as his warning signs behind the attack.
    If you could give some examples of how you would interpert dog behavior that clashes with my own i'd love to hear it. Perhaps we can find some common ground.

    Also behavoirs differ with personality differences between dogs. So we must keep that in mind.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Pardon, I don't speak English but Spanish. Reading you, I think you think I don't agree with you, but that is not the case.

    I like dogs, but cats like me more.