The black dog is dominating the lighter one. Note the proud stance, towering over (& leaning into) the other dog, ears erect and forward, body stiff, tail on the way up (often, the tail stands straight up when a dog is being dominant), hair raised slightly.

The submissive lighter-coloured dog averts his eyes, pins his ears back nervously, lowers his head & curls his body, makes himself small, and is about to urinate.



Again, the black dog is dominating. He puts his head over the other's back, a very common dominant move. The other dog puts his ears submissively to the sides, curls up, and licks his nose, a calming signal intended to de-escalate the situation. Soon, he will probably tuck up a little tighter, and roll onto his back.




Here, the small tan dog is dominating. His tail is straight up, ears erect, and he's checking to see if the black dog has urinated. The black one rolls on his back, keeps his ears submissively to the sides, & averts his eyes.



This sweet little girl pup is showing classic submission. Ears out, curled up body, lips pulled back in a submissive grin, tail tucked off to the side (NOT between the legs, which signifies fear). She is hoping to give muzzle licks to the alpha male.


This is a submissive, loving approach. This guy wants affection from his people. Note his ears down, big grin, lowered head. and tail wagging low.



Submissive greeting. Note the pup's "airplane ears" and tail held off to the side, as he gives muzzle kisses to the adult.


Threat, and submissive response. Note that the threatening dog has everything held *forwards* (ears forward, leaning into the pup) whereas the submitting pup pulls his ears and body *back*, and lowers his head.



Uncertainty. This dog is unsure of how to handle the approaching alpha, and her ears show it. She is also somewhat afraid. She tucks her tail, averts her eyes, lifts/tucks a paw, and is ready to urinate if required.



This guy is also unsure, and a bit afraid. He was just barked at by a small (yet quite confident!) dog. Note his ears and the worried expression on his face as he averts his eyes.



Passive threat/uncertainty. These two half-heartedly consider guarding their meat, but aren't actually showing any intent to take action. A dog in this situation may bite if pushed far enough, although these two particular animals are simply wishing to be left in peace.



If the dog has a bone, freezes and stiffens at your approach, and looks like this guy does (note ears forward and hard stare), he will likely defend his trophy with a bite. Ideally, he will growl and raise his lip in a snarl as a final warning, before snapping his teeth...but not all dogs give full warnings.



This guy is defending the carcass from another dog. Note his ears forward, eyes narrowed, staring at the other dog as he snarls.



This girl is ready to bite. She's actually “guarding” her owner's attentions from the other dogs! “Back Off, she's MINE” says that face.



This girl is planning to pounce on another dog, and take its bone. Note her body language:tail held high, ears forward, hair slightly raised. She is confident, and intent on her mission. However, dogs often assume this posture in play, also.



Stalking behaviour/play or prey mode. This guy is about to pounce on another dog, in play. However, serious prey drive looks the same way. Note the intent expression on his face, ears forward, head down and body held low. He is moving extremely slowly, and appears interested and pleased. Dogs in prey mode do NOT look aggressive, they are simply intent and focused. However, whether it is true hunting behaviour, or simply play, must be determined by context.



Cheerful curiousity. All four dogs are glad to see me, and quite interested in my hat!




This poor guy is afraid. Notice how he's sitting on his tail, tucked beneath him. His ears signal "no threat", and he's too scared to look at the camera, so he turns his head (also a "calming signal").



The girl on the left is afraid. Note how her tail is tucked beneath, rather than submissively off to the side. She cowers and pins her ears back. The one on the right is the alpha female, and assumes a typical dominant, confident pose.



Same girl as above. She is preparing for a fear-bite: ears pulled back, teeth exposed, tail tucked beneath, back arched. She doesn't want trouble, but if the other dog doesn't back off, she will fight back, then probably run.


This boy is almost scared enough to bite. His face draws back, he freezes and stiffens and averts his eyes. If he goes one stage further-- opens his mouth in a gape, pulls back his lips to expose his teeth, and stares with dilated pupils-- he will bite at the slightest provocation. Let's not push him that far. ;)



This boy looks afraid, but he's actually just worried that he'll be ordered off the couch. ;)



This guy is the canine version of apologetic. He had just stolen the deer leg beside him, and now he offers submissive and non-threatening body language as the leg is reclaimed.



Miscellaneous notes:

Hair standing on end means more, no less. It adds emphasis to what the dog's body is saying otherwise.

A wagging tail does not always mean a friendly dog! Like raised hair, it's a sign that he's excited.


Use the whole dog when reading his body language:

A dog standing tall, ears forward, staring, tail held confident, and likely dominant, at least for the moment. (However, a dog who is ”on guard” or alert will also raise his head high, ears pricked forward, and stare as he focuses his attention.)

Mounting, leg lifting, and putting paws or chin across another's back are common dominant behaviours.


Walking stiffly, tail held high & perhaps wagging slowly, ears forward, growling or barking, showing teeth, making himself look large, staring...are signs that the dog may be aggressive. Don't attempt to pet or handle this dog.

If a dog has food or treats, and stops eating, stiffens & freezes as you approach (with or without growling/showing of teeth), be cautious. Many dogs are possessive of valued objects unless taught otherwise, and may bite if they even *think* you want the object.


Dogs typically "correct" one another by gently biting or grabbing the face (muzzle), just as their mother used to do.


Be aware that a dog who thinks he is dominant over you or your children, is most likely to grab a face, to (from HIS point of view) "correct his underlings" when he doesn't approve of your actions. It's very important to be viewed as your dog's leader, and have all humans rank above him!


Shrinking back, making itself small, averting its eyes and/or wide eyes showing alot of white, pupils dilated, squinting/cringing, ears plastered back, tail tucked between the legs, drooling, trembling or very tense are all signs of fear. Never corner or grab a dog who looks like this! You may receive a "fear-bite".


A submissive dog also has a "low" body posture, but is usually also smiling, has the tail held off to the side of the leg instead of tucked underneath, approaches to be petted &/or give kisses, and is more relaxed overall.


A cautious dog will move slowly and hesitantly, and stay low to the ground. A questioning, unsure dog often holds his tail low, and wags it slowly; he may also lower his head, and perhaps hold it off to one side or tilt it sideways. Ears will likely be in the 'uncertain' position seen above.


A happy dog may look submissive, or confident. He will often have his mouth slightly open in a big grin. His body posture is more relaxed, overall. His wagging tail may be at a neutral height (level with his back) or a bit higher or lower.


Remember also that body language also needs to be taken ~in context~. For instance, a dog may look angry or worried, but only be playing, or begging! The postures above are general guides, and not absolutes.

*Check out this great page over at Faithwalk Aussies for more body language and canine social behaviour.