Dog Body Language: What is Your Dog Thinking?

The classic look of avoidance and shame, when Ami is caught on the couch once again.
The classic look of avoidance and shame, when Ami is caught on the couch once again.

Ever wonder what your pup is thinking after you catch him in the act of doing something forbidden, like tearing up tissues from the wastebasket?

It turns out that his look of shame is not remorse at all. This low down submissive gesture is a dog's way of defusing your anger. If you give into this pitiful display, with even the slightest smile, your pup will perk up and start thinking of the next full wastebasket.

Learning to read your dog's gestures and displays will help you react and interact with your dog in a positive way. So, what are dogs thinking?


Wagging tails are not the best indicator of happiness unless it comes with the rest of the happy package.

Doggy bliss sounds a lot like an ordinary dog pant, and when a dog is thinking happy thoughts he will also smile, his ears will relax to the side and his eyes will glaze over with adoration.

Ami, my siberian hunting critters under the snow. Note the head tilt toward the noises.
Ami, my siberian hunting critters under the snow. Note the head tilt toward the noises.


Dogs think in rewards, and dogs often wonder how they’re going to get a reward. So, they become attentive to sights and sounds that may mean something good is on the way or may be hiding from sight, like a toy.

A dog's expression of wonder is a head tilt, which is always accompanied by forward focused ears, and a look of curiosity.


When a dog drops a ball at your feet it could mean that he wants to start a game of fetch or he's testing your authority. Tests of authority are aggressive should not to be confused with playing. Tests include, guarding, hovering over or covering an object with or without a growl… or prolonged tug of war games.

A dog in a playful mood will bow at your feet with his head down and rump up, or he might do a spin around and a little happy dance. There is also the "catch me if you can" tail flash as he shows you his rear to get you to chase him.

"You can't catch me."
"You can't catch me."


Thoughts of defiance often happen during the puppy years when dogs have lots of energy to burn going for rank in the household.

We often see defiance as a wild run around with leaps and bounds over furniture, and even people. Another form of defiance is common at the dog park when they turn and walk away when it's time to go.

Defiant thoughts are short-lived when you ride them out with dignity and ignore the behavior but reward when your dog quiets down or comes to you.

Chasing and yelling only reinforces the idea that they are in control and you are not.

"Everything is going to be okay."
"Everything is going to be okay."


A dog's yawn is not really a sign that you're boring him to death. Yawning in dogs has two meanings.

Yawning in the dog world is used to calm other dogs down. If your dog senses tension in the room, like you're rushing to get ready for work. He will yawn in hopes of calming you down. He's saying, "Chill out and take a breather.Everything is okay."

Dogs sometimes need reassurance from you when they're uncertain, so they'll yawn. If you just sit and stare blankly at your dog, he will eventually yawn. It's like he's asking, "We're cool, right?" He might also seek your opinion if there's a loud noise. He might yawn to ask,"We don't have to worry about that noise, do we?"

Timberly, a smiling, sweet as can be medium wolf mix who is up for adoption.Just ask.
Timberly, a smiling, sweet as can be medium wolf mix who is up for adoption.Just ask.


Building better relationships with our dogs can turn good dogs into dogs gone great.

Looking for a new companion? Look into adoption at a local shelter or a breed specific rescue organization. Timberly, pictured above, is available from Howling Woods, a northern breed rescue in New Jersey.

But do take the time to research the traits of your adoptable's or purchased pups to make sure they fit your lifestyle and budget. Working dogs no matter how small are high energy and need exercise and a job to keep them from destroying your property. Other dogs, like poodles may require expensive monthly grooming.

A little research will save you a lot of pain, which makes for happy tales of success.

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Comments 5 comments

Maria Cecilia profile image

Maria Cecilia 5 years ago from Philippines

nice, this makes me smile because I am reminded of my dogs naughty behavior...

gracenotes profile image

gracenotes 5 years ago from North Texas

It's hard not to laugh sometimes at the misbehavior of my terrier. I think I need to turn my head away when this happens. Good hub.

stefancando profile image

stefancando 5 years ago from Iasi

this was a very enjoyable read! i don't have a dog yet but i'll definitely keep in mind what you discussed here. Do write some more about this!

Cresentmoon2007 profile image

Cresentmoon2007 4 years ago from Caledonia, MI

Thanks for sharing this with us readers. I think it's about time that dog owners realize what their dogs are really trying to say and do.

Pinkchic18 profile image

Pinkchic18 3 years ago from Minnesota

Awesome hub! I took a lot from this article, especially the yawning. Loved the 'chill out and take a breath' lol

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