Pro Reader or Misinterpreter? –Four Ways You’re Misreading Your Pooch

Wouldn’t we love to think that we are all experts at reading our pets’ body language to interpret how they feel? As we humans rely on our verbal speech to understand each other, animals use their body language to communicate. Therefore, it is important to know how to properly translate your pooch’s body language to their appropriate needs and emotions in order to put your pup at ease and avoid any unnecessary confrontation! Below are four potential ways you may be misinterpreting your furry friend’s body language!

1. Tail Wagging

In today’s society, many believe that the telltale sign for a dog’s happiness is when your pooch wags it’s tail. However, a tail wag does not always mean your pup is happy and excited to see you. According to, one must pay attention to the different types of wags that your dog could exhibit. As the English language can have many different meanings for one word, a tail wag can have several meanings as well. For example, a low-hung wagging tail could mean: “I am scared or unsure of a situation.” While a high, stiff wag can mean: “I am agitated, unsure or scared; but I am not submissive.” When a dog is not submissive but appears to be agitated or unsure, your pooch may compensate by exhibiting aggression or even attacking the object that is upsetting them. Further, if the dog’s body is stiff while staring at an object with perked ears, use caution and distract your pooch or move away to avoid any unwanted encounters.

2. Yawning

Now, doesn’t yawning just mean a dog’s tired? Actually, no! Yawning is something dogs do to actually manage stressful situations. says it’s part of a series of actions known as “Displacement Behaviors”, which help canines cope with the chaotic and unpredictable world that surrounds them. Other displacement behaviors can include: panting when it’s not hot, constant licking of legs or paws, licking lips without food or water present, scratching themselves when they’re not itchy, or shaking off after rough play and/or unwanted attention. These displacement behaviors help our pups normalize any stressful situations with actions that are familiar to them in order to help them remain calm and tranquil.

3. Exposing the Belly

When a pooch rolls on it’s back, doesn’t that mean he wants his belly rubbed? According to Dr. Wailani Sung PhD, this may not always be the case! Exposing the belly and throat can also be a sign of submission. It’s the most effective way for them to say, “I am not a threat to you so please be nice to me!” It’s important to pay attention to the circumstances that occur before your pooch lays on it’s back. For example, the holidays can be quite chaotic and overwhelming for your pup when lots of family members, noise, and entertaining takes place. Keep in mind how your dogs might be feeling before you reach down to rub his tummy! He may just be overwhelmed and apprehensive and therefore may need some space.

4. Smiling

Oh, how adorable it is to see a dog grin from ear to ear! But, are they really smiling from happiness? According to, “smiling” can have several other indications, depending on the context. It is important to note that just because a dog shows teeth, this does not mean they are smiling based on contentment. Some dogs are known to display a “submissive smile”, which you may see if you come home to a chewed up house! A submissive smile can mean respect and perhaps surrendering to his owner. It is okay to approach a smiling dog, as long as you differentiate between panting smiles, submissive smiles, and snarls. A snarl is when your pooch’s nose becomes wrinkled and their teeth are fully visible. This is a sure sign of aggression, so do not approach any dog that is snarling in order to properly avoid any dangerous situations for you, your puppy dog, and others around you.

While many of us feel we are professionals in reading our pups, we also humanize them and consider them our furry children who wag their tails and smile when they are happy, yawn when they are tired, and love being touched. However, dogs have many subtleties when it comes to communicating with their bodies. Here, we’ve given you four common misconceptions as to what your doggo is saying through body language. Can you think of any more? Share below!



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