top of page

Dog Body Language: A Crucial Skill for All Dog Guardians!

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Many people make the assumption that because dogs have been at our side for 30,000 years that they come knowing English (or whatever language is primarily used in your home); however, dogs don't communicate in the way we do. Sure, dogs can be taught the meaning of words, but the key word there is taught, meaning it involved an active process of learning by association. Dogs' ability to learn words is pretty remarkable - just look at all the dogs learning to not only recognize our language, but use buttons recorded with words to convey language back to us. The science is still underway, but if you watch it becomes obvious that there is something more going on than what some might suggest is just a clever trick. If your interest is peaked, I strongly suggest you check our Hunger For Words or Fluent Pet - after you finish reading, of course! However, even with this revelation it's still important we learn to become fluent in dog. Since dogs communicate primarily through body language that means we must learn to recognize key aspects of how they use their bodies to convey how they are feeling.

A small white dog with a tri-color face sits on a bridge with her head turned to the side, her ears partially back, a little tension in her eyebrows, and a neutral tail.
While at first glance, this may just appear to be a cute photo of my dog, Gracie. That's what I thought many years ago during this professional photo session. However, if you look closer, you can see some subtle signs of discomfort that Gracie had with this particular photo op.

You might be asking why learning body language is important, you're already busy so why invest the effort? Well for starters, you invited your dog into your home. They had relatively little choice in the matter and while you provide them a wonderful life, isn't it worthwhile taking the time to learn to listen to them as they do us? If that's not compelling enough of a reason, learning body language is also one of the keys to changing behavior. If we can learn to recognize that our dog is feeling stressed or uncomfortable before they exhibit overt behaviors such as growling, barking, lunging, and biting then that allows us to predict future behavior and in doing so, respond more proactively. For example, if you have a reactive dog, you can learn to recognize signs of stress before your dog reaches their threshold and starts barking and lunging. In doing so, you can learn strategies to proactively prevent reactions before they happen.

Dog body language is so critically important that it is the first skill I start all of my clients with. If all households with a dog learned just the basics of dog body language, I truly believe we would have less dogs in shelters and rescue, fewer instances of dog bites and fights, happier dogs and humans, and so much more. Here are some resources to get you started on learning dog body language:


Online Courses:


87 views0 comments


  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
bottom of page