While they do not experience higher emotions like shame, defiance, or contempt, they do have the same basic emotions as we do, such as happiness, sadness, relief, frustration, and fear. These feelings are important in helping dogs learn about the world and to encourage them to behave in certain ways, to protect or help them. For example, if a dog is scared, he is likely to seek security from the threat and gain a sense of relief, while the positive feelings he gets from cuddling and caring for will encourage good relationships with others.
Watch as our experts decipher your expressions, signals and behaviors.
Of course, your dog can’t tell you how they’re feeling, but you can better understand their feelings by observing your dog’s body language and getting to know the basics of dog communication. This guide will help you recognize your dog’s feelings and deepen your special bond.
Happiness is one of the easiest canine emotions to identify and is definitely a favorite expression for your furry family friend! Your dog’s eyes will be gentle and soft, foreheads relaxed, and ears drooping when they run or move back and forth in an engaging, friendly manner.
Dogs can’t really smile, but some, like this golden retriever, seem to be grinning! Your lips are loose, your mouth is slightly open, and your tongue will likely stick out if you pant evenly and gently.
A dog’s tail is a good indicator of its mood – a wobbly tail usually means a happy dog! If they are wagging their tails so hard that their entire hind legs seem to be shaking, it means they are really very happy!
A happy dog moves easily and easily, encouraging you to play and share happiness.
An anxious dog’s eyes can be large and rigid, or they can sometimes narrow and avoid eye contact. You can see wrinkles or tension on their foreheads, and when pricked, their ears are easily restrained as they move around to gather clues of potential danger. If they have long, swinging ears (also known as “drooping” ears), they can be held closer to your head than usual.
Your mouth is usually closed, but when it is open your lips are tense and you can lick them and yawn nervously even though you know you are not hungry or tired.
Your body and tail are likely to be calm and in a slightly lowered position. Scared dogs sometimes wag their tails carefully, but this is done as a gesture of appeasement rather than because they are happy. Because of this, fear can sometimes go undetected. So keep an eye on them whenever they find themselves in a new or challenging situation.
If your dog is scared, his body language will make this very obvious. This type of dog expression can be very dramatic. Different dogs have different fear responses: some crouch to make themselves look small, some roll on their back to show reassurance in a social conflict, some simply stand very still, and others bark loudly or growl defensively.
Their eyes can be wide open, flitting back and forth and either staring hard and rigid, or blinking and looking sideways at any object or person they are afraid of. Your ears will be pressed flat against your head and your lips will be tense. They might lick their lips or yawn, and their tail will become calm, deep, or tucked between their legs. They’ll usually get so focused on the threat that they’ll even turn down their favorite indulgence!
The main goal of a dog when feeling anxious is to simply survive the perceived threat so that his body language, facial expression, and appetite will not return to normal until he feels safe again.
Dogs can experience different types of frustration, from long-term depression (like the dog in this picture) to more active, immediate frustration, usually in response to a specific event (e.g., not being given something they want) . They can also feel frustrated when unable to get away from something uncomfortable.
When it comes to dog body language, a frustrated dog is usually tense and stiff-legged. They might bark or rush at the object of their frustration or try to run away from it. You are completely focused on the source and are unlikely to be listening or responding to any of your attempts to distract it.
Their eyes will be big and blink free, their ears will be pricked up, and if they don’t bark their lips will go stiff.
This is a very tense state, and dogs cannot keep it going forever, so they may come to terms with the frustrating situation even though they sometimes become depressed. This can be misunderstood as calm acceptance, so your dog will need a lot of careful and loving attention to relax after becoming frustrated, before behaving normally again.
Relief is quite noticeable because it usually follows a previously tense and negative emotional state. It’s important to know when your dog is frustrated, anxious, or anxious, but it’s just as important to know when he is feeling relieved and relaxed again.
Just like humans, dogs experience relief when they resolve worries or difficulties. You will see the tension release all over your body from nose to tail. Your eyes will soften, your head will deepen, your body and face muscles will relax, and you will noticeably calm down.
Some dogs yawn as more reserved characters lower their heads, avoid eye contact, and seem to sigh almost inwardly. More extroverted personalities can shake themselves, stretch into a deep arc of play, or even storm around in a euphoric state – all of these actions help release tension.
When your dog is focused, he will be alert and focused on something important, like a ball, a treat, or even you. This picture shows what your dog should look like when you exercise them – watch, listen, and ready to work to earn their rewards.
When your dog is vigilant, his eyes will be open, bright, and perhaps blink-free, and a little intense while focusing on the object of their attention. Their ears are pricked or held forward, and their mouths can be closed or open, with their tongue kept calm and central. Their head is usually held high unless they want to hunt something. In this case, it can be lowered and stretched forward.
When you focus on something that is fun or pleasing, your whole body can exert itself on it, shivering with anticipation and ready to act!
Use caution if you suspect your dog is feeling this emotion, especially until the threat disappears.
An angry dog will try to make itself as big and threatening as possible, with a stiff, erect body, hard and non-blinking eyes, and flattened ears. It is common for their fur to stand on end too.
Their mouths will be open and their lips will be tense and withdrawn, with their snout and nose wrinkled when they bare their teeth. Their weight will be directed forward over their front legs to jump or attack, and they will either be silent or maybe make a low, threatening growl – a really angry dog usually doesn’t yell about it!
Avoid provoking your dog when he’s angry. Do not stare or yell at them or make sudden movements, but give them time and space to calm down.
This is how your dog ideally spends most of his day – relaxed, well trained, full, and comfortable in a familiar environment. When you lie down, you are relaxed and calm, but ready to relax and become interested in what you are doing.
Her eyes are soft and relaxed, moving smoothly and showing no white parts when scanning her surroundings from her comfortable resting place. Their ears are also relaxed when listening casually to their surroundings, and their forehead and eyebrows are smooth and tension-free. Their mouths can either be closed or slightly open, and while they are not showing their partial grins, their lips and muzzle are relaxed. You are completely satisfied!