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Dog Expressions and What they Mean

Learn the meaning of dogs' expressions and body language.

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While we don't speak dog, we can read their body language and understand what they're thinking. Check out the grin on this German Shepherd. With his tongue hanging out of his mouth, he appears relaxed and happy. Pugs have this "What? Me, worry?" look on their expressive faces. When they stare at you with their heads tilted to the side, they're trying to figure out what you want them to do. A wagging tail often means happiness or "I am pleased." However, it can also indicate nervousness. Even if a dog is wagging his tail, always ask the owner if you can approach. A new study shows that yawning is contagious between dogs, and between dogs and humans. Yawning is a sign of tiredness, and can also be a sign of stress. Some dogs, when introduced to new situations, may yawn. When a dog's eyes are partially closed, they're often relaxed. When a dog's mouth is closed or slightly open, he is calm. If his mouth is open and you hear panting, he's cooling off his body. Dog ears come in all shapes and sizes. When your dog is relaxed, he will hold them comfortably. When he is alert, his ears will be raised and pointed toward the position of the sound so he can hear better. If your dog barks excessively, has his tail tucked between his legs and cowers, he is exhibiting fearful behavior. If a dog looks past you or is avoiding your gaze, he may feel threatened. If a dog has his ears pinned back, is growling or showing his teeth, looking away, cowering, or whimpering, he may be agitated. A dog that's shy may circle around, or approach within a close distance, then back away. Look at your dog as a total package. You have to see his eyes, ears, tail, and entire body to measure his mood. After you get to know your dog, you can more easily read his body language.
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