All dog owners ask the question: How can I read my dog’s behavior by their body language?

Some or all of the following indications might be visible when a dog is displaying certain behaviors. It takes a while before you can view and analyze them properly so don’t initially assume that is the dog’s attitude.

As you can see, many are the same in different scenarios, but put together, they can be indicative of a specific behavior. Be alert but not condemning with your or your friends’ dogs. Ask a dog-behavior specialist to assess your dog if you are concerned.

Play behavior: Lowering front of body, rear raised (as if bowing); tail is spine level or slightly higher, wagging; waving paws; barking might go with these.

Relaxation: Lower than spine-level tail wag; even body weight distribution; holding head straight ahead; natural ear position; relaxed mouth.

Curiosity: Head high or cocked; ears forward; mouth closed; tail straight out from body; changing positions after assessment.

Dominance: Circling or sniffing another dog; resting head or paws on other dog’s back or shoulder; growling or snarling when a submissive dog moves; holding chest forward; holding head very high; raised hair on back of neck; ears up, forward or tight; mouth puckered; tail up and straight; hard, steady eye staring.

Submissive: Staying in position and awaiting another dog’s moves; avoiding eye contact; ears low and back; shaking; stretching back mouth and displaying teeth; lowering body; rolling over; tail low or tucked under body; raised hair along back; licking mouth or face of dominant dog.

Fear: Ears back; lowered body; tail tucked; biting or nipping; growling or snarling.

Stress: Stretching; chest low to the ground; sweating; panting quickly; tail low to ground; ears up; yawning.

Aggressiveness: Showing teeth; staring; hair on back of neck raised (hackles); tail may be up; ears forward, high and erect; weight forward; growling and short, sharp barks.

There are breed exceptions to all of these body languages. Some are dependent on whether it is a prick- or floppy-eared dog.

Herding breeds will stalk and chase and corner. Others are prey driven when they play and can seem aggressive when not. Boxers punch with their paws as do some other breeds.

View each dog within these parameters. However, not every dog’s play style is suitable to others. Dogs need to find play buddies with similar play styles so seek them out. Your dog will tell you who they like playing with and those they don’t. Don’t take it personally – dogs will be dogs!

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training.