Dog Body Language


Can you tell what is going on in this picture by reading these dogs' body language? Dogs have very limited verbal communication abilities so they do most of their communicating (with each other and us) nonverbally: through posture, facial expressions and movement. Your dog is communicating with people or other dogs all the time. You just need to learn their language.


In the photo above, initially it appears the top right Shiba is aggressor if you base the direction of the half moon eyes of the red dog. Look closer and you see that the bottom right white dog has every indicator of an aroused dog. Look closer, the top right white Shiba has a softer stance and features. We happen to have a series of photos and know the detail of events: the new foster (red) took resident dogs toys. The top right cream had already assimilated with him and played tug. She was trying to engage in play. The bottom right Shiba was attempting to aggressively steal the toy back. The Red Shiba was unsure of the aggressor and presented calming signals.


In order to develop a strong bond and succeed at training you need to understand the fundamentals of canine body language (note that these signals must be interpreted in context). This ability to interpret body language in context is especially important with fearful and aggressive dogs. Dogs don’t just “bite out of nowhere.” DC SIR hired Train Your Best Friend, LLC Jeni Grant to teach a body language class to our Puppy Mill fosters to ensure our foster parents could effectively identify body language in fearful dogs.


There is scientific proof that dogs are not naturally inclined towards hugging like primates. That doesn’t mean some dogs can’t come to tolerate or enjoy hugging with their family. But what about petting? Surely all dogs love to be petted. Well, no. This is why the ability to read canine body language is so important and especially when children are involved.

For more information about dog body language:
Canine Body Language - Keeping Families Safe
How to communicate with a dog in his own language
Does Your Dog REALLY Want to Be Petted?
Body Language of Fear and Aggression
Dog Communication: Dog Body Language
Language of Dogs (DVD)

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DC SIR is a non-profit, volunteer-run network of foster homes in the Washington, DC area.

DC SIR does not have a shelter facility. To meet our adoptable dogs, interested adopters can attend one of our monthly adoption events.