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Dog Body Language: How To Read It 

Dog Body Language: How To Read It

Your dog wants to talk to you. As a dog owner, you know your dog understands you when you tell them to sit, stay, or grab their leash. They don’t speak the same language you do, but there’s plenty they want you to know. 

Your dog will use vocalizations, body language, and simple cues to tell you what they want or need. If you learn to read canine body language, you can improve your relationship with your dog and better meet their needs. 

You can see canine communication through a dog’s eyes and a dog’s ears. Look at gestures and context to figure out what your dog is saying. 

What Does My Dog Do When They’re Happy?

It’s easy to spot a happy dog from a mile away. Happy dogs usually have wagging tails. A happy dog might even appear to smile, usually with their tongue out. 

They may playfully vocalize or make a noise that sounds similar to sneezing. This small sneezing noise is your dog’s way of telling you they want to play.

Happy dogs usually present open body posture. They’re receptive to the idea of a belly rub. They might roll over and show you their belly as a way to tell you they want to be pet or snuggled. 

When your dog is happy, they may lick you or gently paw at you to express affection. This laid-back happiness calls for cuddles. 

Happy dogs with a lot of energy may play bow. A play bow is when your dog lowers the front half of their body to the ground, stretching their front legs out. 

Play bows are how your dog tells you or other animals that it wants to play. It’s an invitation to be rambunctious in a friendly way. 

They may pounce or bob up and down, playfully barking at a high pitch to entice you or their desired playmate to ramp up their energy levels and engage in active play. 

What To Do When Your Dog Is Happy

Love your dog! Play, snuggle, and have a good time. Use your dog’s energy and enthusiasm to practice new tricks or your dog’s calm contentment to binge-watch your favorite show together. 

What Does My Dog Do When They’re Sad? 


Sad dogs may appear lethargic — their ears won’t perk up, and your dog’s tail may remain pointed toward the ground. They often close themselves off and prefer to be alone, choosing to sleep or lay down. 

They don’t have a desire to socialize with other people or animals. Sometimes, sad dogs will whine at their owners for help or comfort. 

What To Do When Your Dog Is Sad

Sometimes, it’s easy to tell when your dog is sad. Dogs can grieve the losses of family members or other pets. They can also be upset about moving homes or having their routines disrupted.

This type of sadness will pass with time, and establishing a new routine can help. Provide as much comfort and support as possible.

If your dog seems sad and there is no apparent cause, it’s time to see the veterinarian. Your dog’s sadness could be how they manifest emotional or mental discomfort that needs treatment. 

What Does My Dog Do When They’re Anxious?

It’s important to keep an eye out for these signs of stress in your fearful dog. Anxious or afraid dogs may hide. They may cower, place their tails between their legs, or whine. These signs of fear may pass with time.

Depending on your dog’s unique personality, they may turn to you for comfort and protection or become unapproachable. It’s best to let your dog take the lead with their boundaries and their needs. 

Dogs in an uneasy state may engage in repetitive behaviors, like pacing, scratching, lip licking, or digging. Anxious dogs may sometimes yawn to soothe themselves or avoid eye contact. 

It’s normal for dogs to be anxious or afraid sometimes, especially if there’s an obvious trigger. Your dog may fear larger dogs at the park when they’re new to interacting with other animals. 

Dogs are often afraid of loud, unpredictable sounds like thunderstorms or fireworks. Their anxiety will dissipate after things quiet down, and they’ll be your relaxed dog again.

What To Do When Your Dog Is Anxious or Afraid

If your dog is anxious or afraid due to something out of your control, like holiday fireworks or bad weather, keep your dog calm and comfortable with calming signals. Gently pet them and speak softly. Pay attention to your dog’s facial expressions. If they are cowering, they may be nervous.

If your dog has a safe, quiet place to lay with distractions from temporary environmental distress, your dog could benefit from ElleVet CBD + CBDA situational-use chews called Calm and Comfort. These are specifically made for temporaray high stress situations like thunderstorms or vet visits. 

ElleVet CBD + CBDA is clinically proven to provide relief from feelings of stress in dogs. If your dog experiences stress, CBD + CBDA can help to calm them. CBD + CBDA won’t make your dog groggy, drowsy, or impaired, it truly calms them . 

Sometimes the situation requires veterinary intervention. Dogs can carry trauma and even experience post-traumatic stress

A professional can work with your dog to help them modify their behaviors and responses. In some cases, prescription medication may be necessary to keep your dog’s anxiety under control. Your veterinarian will be able to give you more information about your options.

What Does My Dog Do When They’re Aggressive?

There’s no such thing as an aggressive breed of dog. Dogs can be aggressive if they feel the circumstances call for it. 

Some dogs get aggressive when they need to protect their pet siblings or human family. Other dogs may get aggressive only as a response to aggressive behavior from other people or animals.

Your dog may show their teeth when they feel threatened. They may snarl, growl, or loudly and repetitively vocalize in a low pitch. They’ll raise their hackles and poise their weight to the back of their body, appearing ready to leap or lunge. 

Their tail will point straight in the air. If it wags, the movements will be subtle and rigid. 

When dogs show aggression, they’ll narrow their eyes and stare, making them appear more intimidating to the animal or person they’re afraid of. The hair along their back might stand up in a response called piloerection.

What To Do When Your Dog Is Aggressive

When your dog is acting aggressively, it’s important to handle the situation so that no one (including your dog) gets hurt. The simplest solution is to remove your dog from a situation where they respond aggressively. Bring your dog home from the dog park, or separate the animals in your house.

You should never punish your dog, yell at them, or wave your finger around when they’re in an aggressive state. Your dog might perceive the situation as you responding to their aggression with more aggression, which can cause escalation. 

Wait for your dog to calm down, and address the cause of their aggression. In most cases, you can overcome aggression with proper training.

What Does My Dog Do When They’re Sick or In Pain?

Dogs are very good at hiding when they’re sick or in pain. Many pet parents won’t be able to tell if their dog is ill or in pain unless they see an injury or witness their dog vomiting or having bouts of diarrhea. 

When dogs are sick or hurt, they may whine or yawn a lot. They might engage in self-soothing behaviors that mimic those of stress. They may be avoidant when you attempt to pet them or protective over a part of their body causing discomfort.

What to Do When Your Dog is Sick or In Pain

When your dog is sick or in pain, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. If it’s after hours for your veterinarian’s office, go to the nearest animal emergency care center. You never know what’s happening until your dog is examined by a professional. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

How Can I Meet My Dog’s Needs?

It’s easy to give your dog what they’re asking for when you learn how to read canine body language. Your dog is giving you all the information you need. It’s up to you to interpret that information and respond in kind. 

Spend Enough Time with Your Dogs

When your dog is happy and playful, they want your attention. They love hanging out with you, and you should play with them often. Dogs are an extensive time commitment, and maintaining a thriving companionship with your dog is essential.

Identify Where Your Dog Needs More Training

If your dog gets too aggressive or fearful in everyday situations, your dog might need more dog training to respond appropriately in certain situations. Your veterinarian can point you in the direction of a professional dog trainer. If necessary, you can use prescribed medications to help your dog.

Keep Your Dog Calm and Comfortable

When your canine companion is telling you they’re nervous or mildly uncomfortable, you should be able to help them feel more like themselves. Comfort and affection can play a significant role in changing your dog’s emotional state. 

ElleVet CBD + CBDA is also a valuable solution. CBD can work to support a calm mood, easing any stress your dog may feel. It can also soothe  joint discomfort, itchy skin, and offer neuro support and cognitive support

Before you use CBD + CBDA, talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s needs. ElleVet CBD + CBDA is safe and highly effective and s itcan be an invaluable tool in your dog’s wellness toolbox.


Dogs and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) | American Kennel Club

Aggression | ASPCA

How to Tell if Your Dog is in Pain | AAHA