Your Dog's Body Language Decoded

Happy and relaxed Terrier
When a dog is relaxed, his mouth may be loosely closed or slightly open.

Face Value

A happy, relaxed dog’s eyes may look slightly squinty or they may be rounded and relaxed. When he is relaxed, your dog’s mouth may be loosely closed or slightly open. It may look as though he’s smiling.

When your dog is anxious, he may show the whites of his eyes. He may furrow his brow and blink frequently. He may also stare intently or look up out of the corner of his eye, or his gaze may dart around. His pupils may be dilated and dark.

If your dog becomes nervous, he may tighten or tense his mouth. The whiskers and whisker beds on his face may become more visible. He may close his lips or purse them forward in a snarl. He may show his teeth. Showing teeth alone is not necessarily a negative sign; friendly dogs will sometimes show their teeth in a submissive grin during greetings. Again, it is important to pay attention to the context surrounding the behavior and to be familiar with your dog’s reactions to specific situations.

Keep in mind that certain behaviors can be normal in one context but can indicate stress in another. For instance, panting can be normal for dogs who have been running or playing — but fast, shallow panting not associated with heat or exercise can be stress-related.

Once you start to tune in to your dog’s body language, you’ll be fascinated by the ways he is communicating with you all the time. And just like talking with the people we love brings us closer to them, understanding what your dog is saying to you can help to improve and strengthen your relationship with him.

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