How to Tell What Your Dog is Feeling

While dogs can be quite easy to read, sometimes it can be hard to know exactly what they’re feeling, especially when they mainly communicate with you through their body language. Keep reading to find out how to tell what your dog is feeling by understanding their body language.

Although most people feel like they can communicate with their dogs on one level or another, it’s important to know how to tell what your dog is feeling through its body language. 

For example, while you may think your dog is being aggressive for no reason, they may be experiencing extreme fear and are actually trying to defend themselves and others.

By understanding their body language, you can try to resolve the situation stressing your dog out or know when they are happy and want to play. 

It’s also important to understand key signals your dog may be unwell, so you know when to take them to your local vet

Keep reading for five ways to tell what your dog is feeling.

Photo by Chewy on Unsplash.

5 Ways to Tell What Your Dog is Feeling

1. Joy and excitement.

If your dog is wiggling about with its tail wagging up high, it’s a sign they are quite the happy pup. It’s generally easy to tell when your dog’s quite excited, as they make it hard to keep their joy inside and will be jumping about and wagging their tail like there’s no tomorrow.

If your dog is excited, they may be:

  • Wagging their tail up high.
  • Have loose body posture and are wriggling about.
  • Pointing their ears upright or have flattened ears.
  • Opening their mouth or keeping it relaxed. 
  • Playful.

2. Anxiety.

Like humans, dogs also experience anxiety when in an uncomfortable situation. This could be a situation like visiting the dog park or not being handled gently enough when someone is picking them up.

If your dog is anxious, they may be:

  • Licking their lips a lot, yawning or panting.
  • Lowering or tucking their tail underneath them.
  • Trying to get away from the situation.
  • Avoiding eye contact.

3. Fear.

Your dog may be fearful if they hear loud noises, are around people or animals they aren’t comfortable with or any other interaction or experience which could be scary for a dog, like a skateboarder going past them.

If your dog is fearful, they may be:

  • Licking their lips a lot, yawning or panting.
  • Lowering or tucking their tail underneath them.
  • Trying to hide or get away from the situation.
  • Avoiding eye contact or turning their head away from what’s scaring them.
  • Shaking and crouched.

4. Extreme fear and self-defence.

When a dog is experiencing extreme fear, they may go into self-defence mode to defend themselves from the threat. It’s important to be aware when a dog is coming across as aggressive as it’s often because they are actually experiencing extreme fear. 

Dogs can experience extreme fear when an unfamiliar person or animal approaches them abruptly and is making your dog uncomfortable.

If your dog is experiencing extreme fear, they may be:

  • Staring at the aggressor.
  • Crouching their body.
  • Tucking their tail underneath them.
  • Pointing their ears upright or flat. 
  • Having their hairs standing up.
  • Showing their teeth, with their lips pulled back showing aggressiveness. 
  • Growling.

5. Grief.

Your dog may experience grief if a loved one has passed, you’ve recently moved or other events that may cause them to be sad. They won’t seem like themselves and will be more withdrawn, but it’s important to give them time to heal on their own.

If your dog is grieving, they may be:

  • Withdrawn from people and other pets.
  • Lacking their appetite.
  • Sleeping or drowsy. 
  • Aggressive.
  • Barking or howling for another pet who passed away.

If your dog seems unwell, it’s important to take them to the vet to ensure nothing else is wrong. Find your nearest vet on

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      Chloe Thistle

      Junior Marketing Administrator

      Chloe Thistle is a Junior Marketing Administrator at Localsearch, bringing her talents and background in digital and social media marketing to her role. She has sharpened her marketing skills across many different industries, including entertainment, fashion and in the B2B field. In her spare time, Chloe can be found either lounging at the beach or five coffees deep at one of her favourite local cafés. No stranger to adventures, she’s trekked to Mt. Everest Base Camp — fueled by coffee of course — has completed the Kokoda Challenge and is always looking for the next mountain to climb! Chloe loves looking for ways to combine her passions for adventure, sustainability and marketing, always chasing the latest trends in both marketing and fashion. Now, she’s utilising her vast life and digital marketing experience to blog and assist in the content with the Localsearch Marketing Team.