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30+ Dog Behaviors That Dog Owners Should Know Their Meaning

Updated on July 11, 2017
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Januaris is a supplier of pet food and care products, and he’s a true animal lover. He loves to write about dogs, bettas, bees, and pigeons.

Dogs show a wide range of behaviors and body languages. Some of them are pleasing while others are not interesting at all. If you want to understand your canine friend and build a good relationship with him, you should start by knowing what his behaviors mean.

This article explains more than 30 dog behaviors as portrayed by different parts of the animal's body. Read on to learn about behaviors that mean your dog loves you and relates well with other members of your family.

relaxing pups
relaxing pups | Source

The Common Behaviors of a Dog, In Brief

  1. Tilting and shaking head
  2. Yawning
  3. Closing and opening mouth
  4. Licking lips
  5. Showing teeth
  6. Panting
  7. Barking and yelping
  8. Growling
  9. Howling
  10. Whining and whimpering
  11. Staring
  12. Pricking and flicking ears
  13. Wrinkling muzzle
  14. Sniffing air
  15. Exposing belly
  16. Raising hackles and paws
  17. Digging
  18. Crouching
  19. Mounting, humping and Bowing
  20. Freezing and leaning
  21. Stretching
  22. Walking round
  23. Pacing
  24. Licking genitals
  25. Wagging tail
  26. Others


1. Tilting Head to One Side

Your dog will tilt his head if he's uncertain about something he's really interested in. Your canine buddy can also behave this way when waiting for more information. In addition, a dog will tilt his head to listen to a sound and accurately determine its source.

2. Shaking Head - Common Dog Behavior

A dog will shake his head if he's relieved off tension. In most cases, he will behave this way after being aggressive or alert. You can also see this body language from a dog that was eagerly waiting for something.

Decoding Your Dog: Explaining Common Dog Behaviors and How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones
Decoding Your Dog: Explaining Common Dog Behaviors and How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones

I have been dealing with these companion animals for close to 20 years, and I can attribute my good relationship with them to this book. I have learnt how to interact, take care, train, exercise and communicate with different breeds of dogs, including Labrador Retriever and German Shepherd, with the help of this guide. The book has also helped me change awful behaviors in my canine friends, and impart them with the desirable ones.

If you are a dog owner, keeper, guardian, trainer, sitter, caretaker or behaviorist, this is a book you should not be missing! It pretty touches on almost all breeds, so your dog's behaviors are covered in it. If you don't have it in your small library, get it and you will definitely know the best way to interact with and handle your dog!



3. Yawning

A dog can yawn if he's under stress or facing threat to help ease pressure and tension. A dog can also show this behavior if he is confused, tired or threatened. In addition, he can behave this way when meeting other canines.

4. Closing Mouth or Opening It Slightly

If the mouth is closed or slightly opened and held in the normal position, you should know that he is relaxed and happy. However, if the mouth is closed and pulled back, he is stressed, frightened, submissive or suffering from pain.

Other dogs can have their mouths pulled back and still be contented. So you may have to carefully monitor your four-legged friend to exactly determine the cause of the behavior.

5. Licking Lips

A dog will lick his lips if he's stressed or uncertain. Sometimes, this body language can means that your canine buddy is sexually active. In addition, if you see him licking lips of other dogs, you should know that he isn't ready to make friendship with them. This behavior is common with the younger ones.

6. Showing Teeth and Biting

If your canine friend retracts lips to show teeth, he is aggressive or showing dominance. You should be very careful when your dog shows teeth as he can end up biting you.

If this behavior is accompanied by snarling and muzzle wrinkling, you should understand that your canine friend is very angry. It is advisable not to come closer to any dog showing this behavior.

7. Panting

Your four-legged pal will pant if he's overheating or has heatstroke. Dogs do this just to cool down. This is how they regulate their body temperatures. Some may adopt this behavior to relieve pain or stress.

8. Barking and Yelping

If your dog barks loudly and rapidly, he's aggressive or has sensed danger. A short and soft bark means that your dog is friendly or wants to play. Your canine friend could be suffering from pain when he produces a sudden, sharp yelp.

9. Growling

If your companion animal produces a low or medium growl with or without a bark, he is protective, territorial or threatened and can become aggressive and end up attacking people or other animals. Your dog will produce a soft growl if he's alert, anxious, contented or in a playful mood.

10. Howling

Your dog will produce a long howl if he is feeling lonely. Most dogs do this to announce their presence to people or other canines. If he produces a short howl, you should know he's satisfied or excited. A dog also howls to mimic other sounds. So you should be able to tell the cause of this behavior in your dog by examining the situation that he's in.

howling dog
howling dog | Source

11. Whining and Whimpering

If a dog produces a low, short whine or whimper, he is excited, anxious or submissive. A prolonged whine or whimper shows that he is uncomfortable or suffering from pain. Most dogs use these body languages to ask for attention.


12. Opening Eyes and Staring

If your dog has his eyes wide opened, you should know that he is alert. If he gives an intense stare accompanied by narrowing eyes, he's trying to dominate or threaten. If he shows the white part of the eye, he's threatened and wants to attack.

If he looks away after a short stare, it shows that he is polite or submissive. Your dog can also stare at you if you are carrying some treats or food. Any kind of eye blinking in your canine playmate shows love or playfulness.


13. Pricking Ears

Your dog will hold the ears forward or up when he's curious, aggressive or wants to play or chase. If he holds the ears flat and close to the head, he's scared or insecure. Also, your companion animal is sad or unsure if the ears are held apart but not flattened.

14. Flicking Ears

If you see a dog flicking ears, you should know he is simply listening. Most animals usually flick their ears when there is unclear sound. So, if you see your four-legged pal flicking ears forward and backward, you should know that he's just trying to catch the sound clearly.


15. Wrinkled Muzzle

If your canine friend shows wrinkled muzzle, he's angry or aggressive. If he shows teeth and snarls while wrinkling the muzzle, he is sending a warning and can attack any time. You should stop the thing causing this behavior and move away to avoid being attacked.

16. Sniffing the Air

Your dog will sniff the air when he has sensed danger or when tracking enemies or preys. A dog sniffing the air doesn’t bark, growl or howl to avoid alerting his target or catch. A dog can also sniff people or other dogs to see if they can become friends.

sniffing air
sniffing air | Source


17. Exposing Belly

If your dog lies down and exposes belly, he's trying to show respect or playfulness. If you find this behavior interesting, you can encourage it by rubbing his belly. Your canine buddy can also expose the belly when he's being attacked by other animals.


18. Raising Hackles

Your companion animal will raise the hackles if he is threatened, insecure, angry or afraid. A dog with raised hackles is usually alert and aggressive and can attack any time.

When your animal is meeting other dogs, he can raise his hackles and stand tall to defend himself in case of any attack from the fellow canines.

Paws and Legs

19. Raising Paws

If your canine friend raises paws, he's asking for something or wants to play. This behavior is common with younger dogs. A puppy can raise his paws and touch her mother when he wants to suck milk. If a dog raises paws to touch you, you should know that he loves.

20. Digging

A dog will dig to bury or uncover his valuables. It is normal for him to dig, so you should not be worried if you see your dog having this behavior.

Your four-legged friend can also dig holes to catch small animals from their hiding places. Others will dig to create suitable shelters for them and their young ones.

Overall Body

21. Crouching

If a dog crouches, he is frightened, nervous or insecure. Your canine friend can also crouch down to show submissiveness. In addition, he can crouch if he wants to play. You can give him a game when he shows this behavior.

crouching | Source

22. Mounting or Humping

If a dog mounts you or another person in a polite manner, he is seeking attention or asking for treats. If he humps objects in the presence of other dogs. he is likely to be under stress. In addition, he can mount other dogs to show dominance.

23. Bowing

A dog bows by lowering the chest and head to the ground while keeping the rear body up. If your companion animal bows, he wants to play. Some dogs swing their hips and wag their tails to emphasize the need to play. This body language is popularly known as play bow.

bowing behavior
bowing behavior | Source

24. Stretching

Your canine playmate will stretch to show playfulness or love. If you come home after being away for some time and see him stretch, you should know he's happy. These animals usually stretch with the front or rear body close to the ground.

25. Freezing and Leaning Forward

A dog will freeze and lean forward if he is feeling threatened, dominant or challenged. This is common when he's interrupted while eating. The behavior can be accompanied by snarling and wagging of the tail. You should avoid him if he shows this behavior because he can seriously attack you.

26. Walking in Circles Before Lying Down

If you see your canine buddy walking in circles before lying down, you should understand that he was looking for the most comfortable place to rest. He could also be having some muscle problems which are forcing him to find the best way to lie down without hurting his body.

27. Pacing

A dog is nervous, excited or bored if he's pacing frequently. If you see your canine playmate running in a circle around you, you should know that he is playful and wants you to join in the play. It is important to note these animals usually run after other animals regardless of whether they are bored or excited.


28. Licking Genitals

In most cases, animals lick their genitals to clean them. If your four-legged friend licks them excessively, he is bored or has a urinary infection. Most urinary infections are itchy and can cause genital discharge, which can trigger the genital licking behavior.


29. Wagging Tail

In most times, a dog will wag tail to show friendliness or happiness. If he wags rapidly while holding it down, he's showing submissiveness. If he slowly wags the tail while keeping it in the natural position, he's showing alertness or playfulness.

Your canine friend is confused, sad or unwell, if he slowly wags the tail while holding it down. If he slowly wags while holding it high, he's excited or confident.

30. Holding Tail Straight

If your dog holds his tail straight up, he's confident, aroused or excited. Some dogs show this behavior when they meet other canine animals. If the upright tail is slightly shaking, you should know that he's facing a challenge.

A dog is content, happy or relaxed, if his tail is level with the body. If your canine buddy is holding his tail low with no movement, he's showing alertness or insecurity.

31. Tucking Tail Between Legs - Common Dog Behavior

Your canine friend is afraid, nervous, worried or under stress, if he holds the tail between the legs. If he holds the tail tightly against the belly, you should know that he's extremely scared or submissive.

A dog will show this behavior when meeting other dominant animals. Your companion animal will also show this body language when punishing him.


If you keep or deal with dogs, you should be able to know what their body languages and behaviors mean with the help of this guide. You should be able to tell whether or not a dog loves you, or if you are in a good relationship with him.

Some behaviors are natural, which means that there is little you can do about them. You just need to respond to your canine companion accordingly. If other behaviors are really annoying, you can train your canine pal to stop them.


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Have you ever tried to understand what your dog’s behaviors mean?

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If yes, how is the relationship with your canine friend?

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© 2015 Januaris Saint Fores


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    • Jan Saints profile image

      Januaris Saint Fores 17 months ago from the Midwest

      Thanks for loving my photos.

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      gal 24 months ago

      dogs are so cute