Tips for Decoding Your Pet's Body Language

How well do you really understand what your pooch is trying to tell you? Take this quiz, courtesy of and find out.

Many of us are still struggling to interpret our animal friends’ barks, growls, and whines, as well as wags, shakes, and licks. It can be tricky to read the signs correctly.

There are a lot of misunderstandings about behaviors in animals and how they express them. See if you can recognize the meaning of these common mutt moves.

1. Your Doggie is Licking her Lips.

    A. She’s hungry.
    B. She’s stressed out.
    C. She just ate some peanut butter.

Answer: B. No, dogs don’t worry about their e-mail inboxes or to-do lists, but they can still experience both short-term and chronic stress. When the dog is not happy, it increases the probability of our getting bitten, so avoid any sudden moves (like approaching from behind or petting immediately) that could cause your pup to snap.

2. You can see the Whites of your Pup’s Eyes.

     A. He’s surprised.
     B. He’s curious.
     C. He’s afraid.

Answer: C. The whites of the eyes appear whenever the head turns one way and the eyes go the other. In lay, this can happen when the dog is faking you out by appearing to look away but coyly looking at you. But if you’re out in public and see the whites of a dog’s eyes, that’s usually a sign he’s trying to look away out of fear, or to signal his desire for this interaction to be done.

3. Your Hound Freezes Up.

     A. She needs space.
     B. She’s getting ready to pounce.
     C. She’s feeling nervous.

Answer: A. Dogs will freeze and have a lack of behavior when they want a person or another animal to back off right away. You may see this happen in a crowd or even at the vet’s office.

4. Your Dog’s Tail is Wagging Like Crazy.

     A. He’s happy.
     B. He’s upset.
     C. It depends.

Answer: C. You may think a wagging rear means a happy dog, but that’s not always true. It’s important to look at the rest of the body for context. If his muscles, face, and ears are relaxed, he’s probably in a good mood, but tense body language can be a sign that your pup is actually unhappy. In fact, in both dogs and cats, a neutral tail is the best sign they’re content. It shows their body is at ease and there’s no tension in their muscles.

Your pup may have a better understanding of language than you think. Researchers used fMRI to monitor 13 dogs while they listened to human speech. The scientists discovered the animals processed both the meaning of words and the tone in which the words were spoken, using similar areas of the brain that humans do. 

Article courtesy of

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