From lip-licking to tail-pointing-down: dog body language signs you shouldn’t ignore

Dogs cannot express their feelings and ask for help when they are unwell. So, their body language is the communication tool that can give us the most clues. Don’t ignore these warning signs.

Your dog might be unwell but you don't see it. These are canine body language signs you shouldn’t ignore
© Photo by Garfield Besa on
Your dog might be unwell but you don't see it. These are canine body language signs you shouldn’t ignore

Deciphering your dog's body language is an important part of communicating and bonding with your canine. Becoming fluent in it can help you spot if your pooch becomes unwell. It will also make you better at advocating for your furry friend in a variety of situations like greeting other dogs, meeting new people, or even visits to the vet. Here are some body language signs you shouldn't ignore.

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Pacing is a sign of stress

When canines are pacing back and forth, it’s a sign they can’t settle down because something is stressing them. If this happens during mealtimes or for short periods, it might not be a big deal. But, noticing when your dog engages in this behaviour can give you clues as to what is triggering their anxiety, American Kennel Club writes. In older dogs, pacing may be a sign of dementia. If you start to notice this in your senior pet, talk to your vet right away.

Lip licking may indicate anxiety

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Lip-licking is another bit of dog body language that people often misinterpret. Just like people, dogs will lick their lips after a delicious meal, but they will also do it when they feel anxious. Sometimes the tongue flick is so quick it’s tricky to notice. Your dog isn’t signalling a desire to lick your face, but rather discomfort with a given situation.

Tail pointing down may mean your dog is scared

Dogs with their tails pointing down to the ground or even tucked between their legsare feeling fear and stress. Dogs with their tails held up like a flag are feeling confident, perhaps even aggressive. Relaxed dogs hold their tails in a neutral position.

Some breeds, like Chow Chows, have naturally curling tails, whereas breeds like the Italian Greyhound have a very low neutral tail position. If you get to know your dog’s neutral tail position, you will more quickly recognize when their emotions have shifted.

Something is bothering your dog if they’re avoiding eye contact

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Eye contact is an important signal for dogs. When they feel stressed, they will pointedly look away and avoid eye contact. People often interpret this as their pet ignoring them or being stubborn, but it is simply trying to communicate discomfort.

Smiling may mean quite the opposite

Your dog’s ‘smile’ can be confusing, according to Dogs Trust. While some canines can genuinely smile,in most cases, when your pooch bared their teeth, it serves as a warning. They’re saying: 'Look at my weapons'. It’s hard to mistake the aggressive intention for a snarl, especially when it’s paired with a menacing growl. The corners of the dog’s lips form the shape of a C and the front teeth are fully displayed.

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