Dogs attempt to communicate through body language, facial expressions, and posture. Understanding what your dog is attempting to communicate goes a long way in keeping your pet happy while preventing all from getting snapped (the wrong signal or bad communication) at despite the dog giving you ample signals as to their present mood. For the most part, dogs offer up eight messages including relaxed, alert, aggressive, fearful, stressed, worried, submissive, and playful. All provide what the dog is thinking, feeling, and are used consciously and unconsciously to communicate.

Here is what to look for some of these moods:


A relaxed dog is approachable as you will identify by the ears pointing up, tail down, mouth open, head high, and a loose stance as the dog’s weight will be flat on their feet. A dog providing this message is content in their present environment including any activities going on in the immediate area.


A dog that is on the alert and checking things out you will see their tail pointed out horizontally and moving from side to side, ears forward, eyes wide, mouth closed, and leaning slightly forward. A dog in this state has found something that has grabbed their interest and will assess whether it is a threat or if action will need to be taken against it.


An aggressive dog is letting everyone know of their social dominance as well as putting out a threat to you that they will become aggressive if challenging their territory. The tail of the dog will be raised, stiff and may quiver, ears will be forward, forehead can show vertical wrinkles, nose wrinkled, teeth will be visible, mouth open, lips curled, and will present a stiff-legged stance.


Dogs under stress are struggling either socially or due to the present environment. More times than naught, the dog is not directing their stress to an individual but instead outlining their present state of mind.


A dog that is worried will offer up signs of submission. In this state, you will find that the dog sees their situation, or the individual that they are up against is potentially a perceived threat.


A dog this is worried wants to avoid any further challenges and is trying to prevent any conflict. The dog’s tail will be down, body lowered, ears back, eye contact will be brief, and paw will be raised. You will find that the dog will have sweaty paws and will lick at their face of the more dominant dog.


A dog that is fearful will submit and totally surrender. You will see that a fearful dog is accepting their lower status and the threatening dog or individual will be avoided so no further confrontation is made. This dog will roll on their back exposing their stomach, ears will be back, head turned to avoid any eye contact, the corner of the mouth will be back, and you may see a few drops of urine.


Playful dogs are excited, bark, and are inviting you to join in on their good mood. The dog’s tail and ears will be raised, mouth open with tongue exposed, and the front end of the dog will be lowered by bent forepaws.

Remember it is important to understand what your dog is attempting to communicate because it will keep your pet happy. Dogs offer up eight messages including relaxed, alert, aggressive, fearful, stressed, worried, submissive, and playful. If you know how they communicate those moods then you will be better at understanding what your dog is communicating to you.