Body Language and Your Dog

Here is the article about dog body language written by Kelly Marshall, who does a lot of other articles on dogs.

Your Dog's Body Language
By: Kelly Marshall

Dogs use their bodies and paws to express a variety of different things. Below are some examples and what they mean.

Dog crouches with front legs extended, rear up, and head near the ground: This is the classic play bow and means simply I want to play!

Stiff legged, upright posture or slow, stiff legged movement forward: I am in charge around here! and I challenge you. A dominant dog will use this posture to indicate assertion of authority and a willingness to fight for it.

Body slightly sloped forward, feet braced: I accept your challenge and am ready to fight!

Dog rolls on side or exposes underside: Let us not argue or I am not a threat to you or I accept that you are in charge here. This is a submissive response to avert conflict. Many dogs adopt this posture in a fairly relaxed and contented manner when they are around their pack leader. When your dog rolls on his back for a belly rub, he is actually accepting you as leader of the pack.

Dog places head on another dog's shoulder or places paw on the back of another dog: I want you to know who is the boss around here. These gestures are commonly used by dominant dogs, pack leaders, and dogs that have aspirations of becoming a pack leader.

Mouthing: This shows up in dog human interactions as the dog taking the handler s hand in his mouth or, while walking, taking the lead in the mouth. Mouthing can be a serious sign of dominance challenging and shows that the dog does not accept the human as pack leader.

Dog places paw on master's knee: Look, I am here or Pay attention to me. This attention seeking signal has many variations. They include pawing the air in front of their master or sliding the head under the master s hand.

Hair bristles on back and shoulders: This is a sign of anticipated aggression. A ridge of hair bristling down the back is a sign that says Do not push me, I am angry! When the bristling extends to the shoulders it means I have had it with you and is a sign of an imminent attack.

Dog sits with one front paw slightly raised: This is another sign of stress but is combined with insecurity. It means I am anxious, uneasy and concerned.

Dog rolls on his back and rubs it on the ground: This is sometimes preceded by nose rubbing where the dog pushes his face, and possibly his chest against the ground in a rubbing motion or rubs the face with a forepaw, from eyes to nose. They often follow feeding or occur as the dog s owner begins to prepare food. However they also can occur following or in anticipation of other pleasant activities.

Scraping the ground and ripping the turf with the paws: This is usually after the dog has defecated but may occur at other times. Dogs have glands on the bottom of their feet that provide each with a unique scent. What a dog is saying here is “I was here and I am leaving my calling card!

Article by Kelly Marshall of

Updated 9/23/16

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