He’s man’s best friend. He stands faithfully by our side. Never doubts us. Never questions us. He’s dog – we love him and know him well. At least, we think we do. But how well do we really know our dogs? Does a wagging tail always indicate happiness? Does panting always mean a dog is hot?

How well can you decipher your dog’s body language and his attempts to communicate with you?

If you have a concern about your dog’s behavior, be sure to ask us at your next appointment. In the meantime, here are a few common ways dogs communicate how they’re feeling: 

Calm and neutral
Relaxed body posture; no tension
Relaxed tail, possibly wagging
Possibly panting happily
A calm, neutral dog is typically ready for you to greet and pet him.

Leaning forward
Ears are forward
Mouth might be closed
An alert dog could be curious or interested in what’s going on around him.

Standing up tall and leaning forward
Tail held high
A dominant dog is showing another dog that he’s in charge.

Stiff posture
Tail moves back and forth, like a flag
Might show teeth and/or growl
Don’t run away from an aggressive dog. Stand tall and still and look away.

Anxious or Nervous
Ears are back
Tail is low, but the end might be wagging slightly
Posture is leaned back or turned to the side
Might be panting
A dog showing signs of anxiety is nervous about his surroundings and you should avoid petting him if you don’t know him.

Flattened ears
Tucked tail
Crouching lower to the ground
A scared dog should not be approached, because he might bite if he feels the need to defend himself.

Laying on his back
Paws and tail tucked in
This position is most common when two dogs interact. One dog is telling the other he “gives up.” Abused dogs will sometimes display this behavior toward humans.

Might “bow down” with tail in the air and wagging and front legs and chest on the ground
Might be panting or barking
This dog is ready for you to chase him or throw the ball for him.

Forward ears
Tail wagging quickly
Alert and ready to pounce
Likely panting
Sometimes, overly excited dogs can inadvertently scratch, jump up, or knock someone down in their excitement.

We know that each animal communicates a little differently from the next, so we encourage you to pay attention to your dog this week and see if you can figure out what he might be trying to tell you!