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3 Signs To Know Your Dog

Signs of a Happy Dog

Signs that indicate that the dog is receptive to attention or wants to play:

  • panting, relaxed, happy expression

  • body position relaxed

  • lying with one paw tucked under

  • enthusiastic tail wag

  • tail thumping on floor

  • play bow (front end down; rear end up; tail wagging)

Signs of Arousal

These signs indicate that your dog is interested in something, or trying to decide on a course of action and is not receptive to attention (such as petting from a child) and include:

  • ears forward

  • mouth closed

  • eyes intense

  • body rolled forward

  • body tense

  • tail high (may or may not be wagging)

  • slow deliberate tail wag

This is the type of posture we see in a dog who wants to chase a squirrel, confront an intruder or is getting ready to chase a ball. He is intensely focused and ready for action. He does not want to be hugged or petted at this time. Teach children to leave a dog along who is tense and focused like this.

Signs of Anxiety


These signs indicate that your dog is uncomfortable with the current situation and there is a need for intervention to prevent pushing the dog to the point of biting, and to make sure your canine friend is happy and not feeling anxious.


One Paw Raised

This is very cute but the dog is not happy and does not want to be petted or bothered. She is worried.


Half Moon Eye

The dog just wants to be left alone.

Watch for this one when kids are mauling the dog.

This is a common expression in dogs that being hugged.

If you see the half moon eye when the kids approach the dog or are interacting with the dog, it's time to intervene and give them all something else to do.

Displacement Behaviours

Displacement behaviours are normal behaviours displayed out of context.

They indicate conflict and anxiety.

The dog wants to do something, but he is suppressing the urge to do it.

He displaces the suppressed behaviour with something else such as a lick or a yawn.


For example, you are getting ready to go out and the dog hopes to go too.

He is not sure what will happen next. He wants to jump on you or run out the door, but instead he yawns.

The uncertainty of the situation causes conflict for the dog and the displacement behaviours are a manifestation of that conflict.

The dog may want to bite a child who takes his bone, but instead he bites furiously at his own foot.

Some examples of displacement behaviours include:

  • yawning when not tired

  • licking chops without the presence of food

  • sudden scratching when not itchy

  • sudden biting at paws or other body part

  • sudden sniffing the ground or other object

  • wet dog shake when not wet or dirty

These are all things that dogs do anyway.

It is important to look at the context to determine whether the dog is feeling anxious.


For example: if it is bedtime and the dog gets up, stretches, yawns and goes to her bed, then that yawn was not a displacement behaviour.


If the kids are hugging the dog or lying on him and he yawns or starts licking at them over and over then this is displacement. He wants to get up and leave or even to bite, but he displaces that with yawning or licking them or himself.


In this context the licking or yawning behaviour tells you that the dog is uncomfortable with whatever the kids are doing and it is time for you to intervene.


You must then either prevent the kids from doing this in the future or use positive training techniques to teach the dog to enjoy (not just tolerate) these actions from the kids.

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