Head of the Class Dog Training LLC 

Winchester, VA

Winchester's Premium Professional Pet Training

What Is My Dog Saying?

If only dogs could speak! It would be great to hear what’s on your dog’s

mind, wouldn’t it? Well, while dogs don’t speak our language, they can

communicate with us in other ways. If we are educated about a dog’s

body language and pay close attention, we can get a pretty good idea

of what our dogs are telling us. Here is a quick lesson in doggie body language.

Signals Your Dog is Stressed, Uncomfortable or Nervous

Dogs exhibit these behaviors when they feel anxiety to try to ease the stress or appease whatever they perceive is threatening them. When stressed, uncomfortable or nervous, your dog may exhibit the following body language.

  • Dogs do yawn while tired, but much more often they do this when they are stressed.
  • Dogs may lick their lips or flick their tongue.
  • If the dog freezes for a few seconds before reacting to something, this signals stress.
  • If your dog turns his or her head but is looking at a perceived threat, showing the whites of his or her eyes, this means the dog is feeling threatened or nervous.
  • Dogs will turn their heads away from something that scares them.
  • Dogs may freeze for a long period of time while deciding whether to fight or flee.
  • The hair on the dog’s neck may stand on end. This is called piloerection, and it makes the dog seem larger and releases odor from glands in the dog’s hair follicles.
  • Dogs may have a lack of focus when stressed.
  • Excessive drool might mean the dog is feeling nervous.
  • Dogs can sweat through their foot pads and may get sweaty paws when stressed.
  • If your dog shakes, this is a good sign he or she is very uncomfortable.
  • Dogs may have reduced saliva during times of stress, which results in dry, raspy panting.
  • Tense jaw, furrowed brow, curved tongue, curved eyebrows or twitching whiskers show the muscular tension in the dog’s face and indicate stress.
  • Dogs may hug or hold onto their owners when they’re stressed.
  • Your dog may carry his or her tail low to show stress.

Signals Your Dog is Relaxed

Happy dogs are wiggly, loose dogs. Dogs displaying relaxed body language are ready to invite you to interact and communicate joy and confidence. Here are some examples of relaxed dog body language.

  • Your dog will allow his or her mouth to open and let the tongue loll off to the side.
  • A happy dog has a wiggling backside.
  • Dogs wagging their tails fast side to side or in a circle are happy.
  • You can see the relaxed expression of a joyous dog as all the facial muscle are released.
  • If your dog flips over to invite a belly rub, this is a sign of relaxation. (However, flipping over doesn’t always mean this. If your dog feels threatened, he or she may flip over quickly to show withdrawing from the interaction, so use context clues to figure out what your dog is asking for.)
  • Happy dogs tend to squint or blink. (Sometimes. Just like tummy rubs, you need to look at the whole dog. Blinking, especially repeatedly, can also be stress. Blinking with a mouth held open, like a human smile, is likely friendly. Look at the dog as a whole. )
  • Dogs may bow to invite play or freeze briefly during play.

If you have questions about your dog’s body language, we’d be happy to answer them. Simply contact us. We’re all about communication, and that includes the kind you have with your dog.

-Lisa Marino

Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.

Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.

She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.