Body Language: What Your Pet is Telling You

Pets Have Feelings Too

Do you wear your heart on your sleeve? Keep your emotions bottled up? Your pets don’t have the option. They express their feelings very clearly through body language. Reading their cues properly can help you keep your dog or cat happy and stress-free.


Canine body language is very expressive. If you learn to recognize the following five stances, you’ll likely be able to read your dog’s feelings the majority of the time.

  • Happy/Playful – Your dog’s face will be relaxed, with normal shaped eyes and an open mouth. His tail will be either loose and hanging or wagging from side to side. His body will show no stiffness or he may be in a “play bow” with his front half on the ground and his back half in the air.
  • Afraid – A fearful dog will lower his body while still standing, pinning his ears back, with his eyes wide and dilated. A worried dog will avoid eye contact and he’ll lie on his back if he’s submissive.
  • Aggressive – A non-submissive dog may display similar traits when afraid, but the hair on his back by his neck and tail will be raised. His mouth will be tense and slightly curled up, exposing some teeth. An aggressive dog that’s not afraid will stand straight up, leaning slightly forward with his tail raised stiffly, possibly with some slight side-to-side motion. His ears will be up and his forehead and nose may be wrinkled. His teeth will be clearly visible, although he won’t necessarily growl.
  • Alert – If your dog is aware of and interested in something, he’ll stand with his chest and ears forward, mouth shut and tail either straight out behind him or straight down (but not tucked). His eyes will be wide and he may give a few short barks.
  • Approachable – A relaxed dog will hold his head high with his mouth slack and his tongue showing. He’ll stand loosely with his tail down and relaxed, his ears up but not forward.


Felines don’t display quite as much emotion through body language, but you can read things in their ears and tails. Ears slightly to the side and forward show calm, while straight-up ears, either still or twitching, indicate interest or agitation. Ears flat against his head mean he’s about to attack. An uninterested cat’s ears will often move independently of one another.

Trust your cat’s tail when all else fails. A confident cat holds his tail high in the air, while a fearful cat will tuck his tail between his legs. If the hair is out on his straight-up tail, your cat is feeling threatened.



How to Read Your Dogs Body Language

Canine Body Language

Catster – Cat Body Language

WebMD – Cat Body Language

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