Dog Body Language: facial expressions!

First, your primer on what to look for:

When dogs are feeling anxious, the muscles on the back of the skull tighten, pulling the facial skin tight. This causes the ears to pinch against the skull, the whites at the corners of the eyes to show, and if the dog is panting the back molars to be seen.

Dogs might feel stress either because they’re physically stressed (stop playing fetch! Your dog is now overheated!) or mental/emotional stress. It’s this latter that we’re going to look at today.

The opposite would be a dog who isn’t under stress, but isn’t listening to his owner, and may be aggressive. When the ears pull forward, usually creating a wrinkle in the forehead, the dog is no longer tuned in to his owner. (He might just be excited about making new friends, or he might be preparing to attack.) When they’re friendly, the nose comes up and usually twitches, catching scent. When they’re not friendly, the nose drops down and they watch out of their eyes.

More details we’ll note as we go through the pictures! Hover over each image to get the notes for what’s going on in that dog’s face.

Callie Buna Bed

   Nose is way up, ears are swiveling back to acknowledge not just what he was focused on, but what's going on around him as well. Better! I would expect this dog to jump on me in greeting.







And with that last mixed-message picture, you can see how important it is to take into account not just body or tail or facial expression, but all of it at once.

Next week: we take all of it into account!




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