Pet News

How to Understand Your Dog’s Emotions


The ever-changing world can result in both humans and animals feeling a wide variety of emotions. While we humans try to keep our feelings inside, our dogs very often carry their feelings “on their sleeves”. They use a combination of posture, facial expression, and other body language to show their emotions. The ability to decipher this is an important part of communicating with your dog.


Happiness is one of the easiest emotions to spot, and usually the one that shows them the most! When a dog is happy, it shows this by having a tail held up or down in a natural position – maybe even wagging it – a relaxed body, and a partially open mouth that gives the appearance of a slight smile.


If something caught your dog’s attention, they show it in a number of different ways. An attentive dog has its head up, eyes open and focused, ears pointing forward or moving slightly to find the source of the sound. Her body and tail are motionless, and her mouth is closed – although some may bark or growl depending on the assessment of the situation.

The alert behavior usually only lasts a few moments before your dog decides how to respond to what has caught his attention. If your dog’s behavior seems to be turning into fear or anger, try to determine what is causing this and slowly introduce it to the source. If your dog’s vigilance is constantly turning into fear or anger, it is best to contact a certified trainer who can help them manage this reactive behavior.


Similar to humans, dogs who are not sure how to react to a situation develop feelings of fear. You may find that your puppy is anxious when his eyes are big and starting or when he avoids eye contact altogether. Their mouth is likely closed, but when it is open they may lick their lips or yawn nervously, and their ears point back slightly and move as they try to gather clues about the situation. Fearful dogs tend to stand very still, but it’s not uncommon for their tail to wag slowly, which is a sign that they don’t want a conflict. Similarly, they can roll over on their backs to expose their stomach and demonstrate their submission.

Depending on the root of your dog’s fear, there are several steps you can take to help them overcome them. If your dog shows slight fear when they encounter new situations, take the time to slowly bring them to their attention. If this slow introductory approach doesn’t work, contact your veterinarian. They can refer you to a trainer who can work with you and your dog to reduce this anxious behavior and prescribe medication if necessary.


Dogs are mostly frustrated in response to a certain event – usually one where they don’t get what they want. Your body will be tense as you focus fully on the source of your frustration and often ignore your every attempt to get their attention. When their frustration reaches its peak, they can bark or bump into the frustrating object.

Unfortunately, when dogs are constantly frustrated, they often deal with the situation. While this may seem like calm behavior, it can actually lead to feelings of depression. If you find that your dog is frustrated, see if there is something you can do to make things easier for him. For example, if they can’t figure out a difficult puzzle feeding toy, try showing them how to solve it, or just remove the food from it entirely. If there is little you can do to make the situation easier for them, For example, if they are trying to play with another dog who is not moving, it is best to remove them completely from the situation. You can then pay them some attention until their behavior returns to normal.


There are many different ways that dogs express fear. Some go on the defensive, growling and barking to appear threatening. Others try to escape the threat by tucking their tail between their legs and trying to make themselves as small as possible.

If your dog is scared, just think about how to “survive” the threat. This means they have little else to focus on, including their favorite food or food, until the threat has subsided. If you notice your dog is expressing fearful behavior, quickly try to find out what is frightening him. If something you can get away from is triggering their fear, do so until they calm down. If the source of their fear is inevitable, like fireworks or thunder, do your best to create a space in your home where the source of their fear is minimized so that they can feel safe.


Along with happiness, anger is one of the most recognizable emotions a dog can display. When your dog is in trouble, he will try to make himself as tall as possible by standing stiffly upright with the fur on his back and neck. Their eyes will be on the threat, while their ears will be tucked back and their mouths wide and teeth exposed. While they are most likely growling, some dogs prefer to stay very still.

When your dog is angry, you want to stay calm and avoid making loud noises or making sudden movements. When you are able to remove what is making them angry, do so and give them some space and time to calm down. If your dog gets angry on a regular basis, it is important to seek help from a professional trainer who can help you and your dog process these emotions safely. If this option is not checked, there is a chance that your dog may feel the need to protect himself from the perceived threat that could result in injury.

To understand your dog’s emotions, you need to consider all of the different types of communication as a package. If you are only considering part of the package, e.g. For example, if your dog has a wagging tail, you may not be able to tell whether your dog is happy or scared. When you learn to understand and respect their emotions, you can strengthen your relationship and take it to a whole new level.



Robert Dunfee