by H. Davis

Photo by Mike Burke on Unsplash

Imagine adopting a dog you thought was the perfect fit for you and your family after you spent months combing through various pet articles. You finally meet the dog, instantly fall in love with him/her, and can’t wait to bring them home. As you both walk in the house, you notice that the dog’s behaviors start to change. You brush it off, however, thinking that the dog will eventually get used to their new environment, but that isn’t the case.

What is your dog trying to tell you? While there are a number of different ways these four-legged animals communicate, paying attention to their body language is just as important as the noises and sounds they make. In fact, much of the information they send to their owners are through their body language, especially when it comes to their facial expressions and body postures.

Understanding what your dog is trying to say can provide both you and your family with useful information — insights that let you know when they’re nervous, spooked, or on edge about what’s going on around them, which could cause them to snap. Remember, in order to understand your dog’s body language, you need to look at their face and body as well. With that being said, here are some things to keep an eye out for:

Dog Posture: Dogs normally use their bodies to communicate their emotions and either try to look smaller or larger. If your dog starts to feel happy and content, they’ll be more relaxed and their weight will be more balanced between all four legs. A wagging tail is widely assumed to be a sign of happiness. Truthfully, a wagging tail the majority of time expresses the willingness to interact – but the engagement isn’t always friendly. In some cases, a wagging tail might be the dog’s way of saying hi; in other situations, however, it might signal an overly aroused animal.

This is much more different from the overall appearance of a nervous dog. When your dog is nervous or scared, for example, their bodies will be hunched over as if they’re trying to make themselves smaller than they are. During this emotional stage, you might see them lower their body or even cower to the ground. Their head will be low to the ground as well. If they’re afraid of someone or something, then you might see them run away. If your dog is afraid of the veterinarian, for instance, they move away from them and move closer to you when placed on the examination table. If your four-legged friend is uncertain about the environment, then they might approach tentatively, making sure that their weight is centered so they can retreat quickly if needed. If dogs want to try and intimidate other animals, then they’ll try to make themselves look larger than they are to express their dominance.

Meeting Strangers: Does your dog lose control when company comes over – barking, jumping, running in circles, and making noise? When you walk to meet a stranger near your home, does your dog’s body language change? Do they growl, bare their teeth, or watch the strangers every move, waiting for their chance to attack?

Unless you and your four-legged animal live in a remote area hundreds of miles away from civilization, you’re going to encounter people on a daily basis. The truth is, a dog that reacts aggressively to the presence of strangers can end up lashing out and attack that person. To make matters worse, with kids, neighbors, and federal employees walking around delivering mail, the chances of someone needing to fend off a dog attack has risen. If you have a big dog, in particular, their excitement around strangers can send someone flying if they aren’t prepared for this type of behavior. It could even result in someone getting a scratched face, which is especially true for children and seniors.

How should you introduce your dog to new people?

  • Take your dog to a separate room until the environment has calmed down.
  • Let your animal make the first move.
  • Ask visitors to introduce themselves by giving your dog treats.
  • Be sure not to reward them if they continue to show fear or shyness.
  • Be patient.


Special Needs Animals: Welcoming a new dog into your home is without a doubt an amazing feeling, but welcoming in a dog with special needs can provide some unique challenges. In order to understand the behavior of special needs animals, we must first grasp the concept of what it means to have a special need pet.

Special needs pets generally include a wide range of different physical disabilities, conditions, and special behavioral issues that may require the pet to be under constant supervision. The term “special needs,” can include pets with clear distinctions, such as missing limbs or deformed body parts. So, if the animal suffers from behavioral issues, for example, then they can be managed through positive training. Other animals who suffer from physical limitations, however, might just need to be placed in a new environment. A three-legged dog, for instance, will behave the same way a four-legged one does, while a blind or deaf dog might learn to use other senses to navigate around their way around the world on the daily basis. Regardless of the animal’s special need — these types of pets have a lot to teach humans about animal behavioral world.

In the end, the messages dogs communicate with their body can be sudden and subtle. However, with careful supervision, owners can learn to recognize and acknowledge the most important things. It’s important to know when your dog is happy, nervous, sad, or scared. Pay attention to their environment and the people you bring around them. As long as you’re able to recognize these things, you could diffuse a bad situation before one happens and most importantly, protect the dog from being injured throughout the process.



H. Davis loves taking advantage of the sunny weather outside. If you can’t catch him online, you might be able to catch him out playing football with friends or cheering on the Boise State Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at @Davis241