He’s man’s best friend. He stands faithfully by our side. Never doubts us. Never questions us. He’s dog – we love him and know him well. At least, we think we do. But how well do we really know our dogs? Does a wagging tail always indicate happiness? Does panting always mean a dog is hot?

How well can you decipher your dog’s body language and his attempts to communicate with you?

If you have a concern about your dog’s behavior, be sure to ask us at your next appointment. In the meantime, here are a few common ways dogs communicate how they’re feeling:

Calm and neutral

Relaxed body posture; no tension

Relaxed tail, possibly wagging

Possibly panting happily

A calm, neutral dog is typically ready for you to greet and pet him.


Leaning forward

Ears are forward

Mouth might be closed

An alert dog could be curious or interested in what’s going on around him.


Stiff posture

Tail moves back and forth, like a flag

Might show teeth and/or growl

Don’t run away from an aggressive dog. Stand tall and still and look away.

Anxious or Nervous

Ears are back

Tail is low, but the end might be wagging slightly

Posture is leaned back or turned to the side

Might be panting

A dog showing signs of anxiety is nervous about his surroundings and you should avoid petting him if you don’t know him.


Laying on his back

Paws and tail tucked in

This position is most common when two dogs interact. One dog is telling the other he “gives up.” Abused dogs will sometimes display this behavior toward humans.

We know that each animal communicates a little differently from the next, so we encourage you to pay attention to your dog this week and see if you can figure out what he might be trying to tell you!

Have questions? Need an appointment?

El Gato Veterinary Hospital is here to help! Contact us today.