Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Emotions - The Trupanion Blog
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Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Emotions

man holding french bulldog puppy

Dogs are known as man’s best friend and our connection with dogs runs deep. Research conducted by Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest shows that dogs can comprehend our words and intonation. However, many humans can’t read dogs as well as they might think.

To become a good dog parent and develop trust, you need to be able to decode your furry friend’s body language and expressions. It will help you understand when your dog is scared, happy, anxious or upset. So if you are one of those new dog parents who needs help communicating with your dog, this comprehensive guide to understanding your dog’s emotions is just what you need.

Communicating by speech

Many dogs use their voice to communicate with their owners. Most dogs bark to express various emotions such as excitement or fear. They may even moan or whine in a subtle voice when demanding attention or expressing anxiety. Each sound has a different meaning and can be interpreted according to the tone and intensity.

The ears and tail describe the tale

Dogs are very emotionally expressive and utilize their ears and tail the most to show how they’re feeling. Body stance and eyes also communicate your pup’s emotions. You need to spend time getting to know dogs to be able to interpret these signals correctly as most of them differ only slightly. For instance, dogs can wag their tail when they are happy, anxious or scared; you need to know more than just these signs to understand what your dog is feeling.


When your pup is happy, he will wag his tail rapidly, not slowly or firmly. His eyes and body will be relaxed, and he’ll give you signals that he wants to play. You will also notice that your pup’s ears will be perked up. Have you ever witnessed the excitement your dog displays when he knows he is about to get his favorite treats or go for a walk? Yes, that is happiness. When he wiggles his entire body and opens his mouth as if he is laughing, you know, he is feeling good.

A dog gives off similar signals when he is relaxed. He will wiggle his tail and roll over to invite you for a belly rub. You may also notice his mouth slightly opened and his eyes blinking.

Aggression and Anger

Dogs can get territorial and express aggression. They express anger when they come across other unfamiliar pups, become possessive or when defending themselves against danger. Illness might also cause your pooch to be aggressive so keeping them healthy is essential.

You can quickly identify signs of aggression in dogs, their stare becomes narrow, and the tail is fluffed up. The hairs at the nape of the neck also rise, and their position indicates that they may bite.

Anxiety or Discomfort

When a dog doesn’t feel comfortable in a situation, his eyes become narrow, and he flattens his tail. If your dog has his eyes fixed continuously on something and his body is lowered, he is indicating anxiousness. When dogs go through severe anxiety, they whine. The whining might seem like your dog is crying only without the human tears.

Of course, as a first-time dog parent, it can take time for you to be able to read your dog, but there are plenty of resources to help you out. You can research the internet, ask the veterinarian or hire a trainer to get assistance. However, remember that the key is to spend time with your dog and closely analyze his behavior.

About the Author: Jenny Perkins is an Animal Behavior Specialist and a passionate writer. She loves to write about the nutrition, health, and care of dogs. She aims at providing tips to dog owners that can help them become better pet parents. She writes for the blog Here Pup.

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