A man wearing a beanie stands outside and holds his small dog while smiling.

Learn How to Read Canine Body Language During National Dog Bite Prevention Week, April 7-13

On average, there are 4 million reported dog bites each year in the United States. Of those 4 million, nearly 20% require medical intervention. With proper canine education, most of these incidences can be prevented. Dogs often give warning signs before biting someone. Therefore, learning how to read canine body language can help you understand when a dog is feeling unsafe or threatened.

Let’s look closer at the importance of canine body language and how to keep yourself safe.

The Importance of Canine Body Language

Dogs have their own unique language. Rather than relying on words, they often speak with their movements and expressions. Whether we realize it or not, dogs are constantly communicating with us. Learning how to read canine body language can help keep us safe when we are feeling fearful.

Reading Canine Body Language

Dogs use their tail, posture, and facial expressions to communicate. Reading canine body language means we must pay close attention to their body for clues. 

It’s extremely important to observe a dog’s body language when you’re meeting for the first time.

Tail Positioning

Most people are familiar with the signs of a happy dog. When a pup is rapidly wagging its tail, it usually means they are excited and eager to see you. A wagging tail is an invitation to come closer. When a dog’s tail is neutral or barely moving, it usually means they are relaxed and relatively calm. 

However, when a dog’s tail is low or tucked, they are likely experiencing some sort of fear or discomfort. If you are meeting a dog for the first time with a tucked or low tail, be very cautious. Depending on the dog, they may feel threatened and lunge at you. 


Posture is another important physical sign of a dog's mood. If a dog appears open and confident, they likely feel comfortable. Fearful dogs may make themselves look smaller by curling up or lowering their heads. However, a potentially agitated dog may show their teeth and get taller.

Facial Expressions and Movements

In most cases, a slightly open mouth is a good sign. However, if you notice narrowed eyes, bared teeth, or a furrowed brow, a dog is usually uncomfortable and defensive. A dog’s ears can also speak volumes, with forward-facing ears meaning they are alert or on edge. Flattened ears typically indicate they are submitting to you.

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