Dog’s are a man’s best friend, but sometimes we wish we knew what they were communicating with us. 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?

While all dogs are different, there are a few common ways our dogs communicate how they’re feeling.


  • 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.

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.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

You now, can decipher what your dog is trying to communicate with you by understanding what their body language is saying. If you have any questions about your dog’s behavior, give us a call.