Understanding your dog’s emotions is key to building a healthy and trusting relationship with your pup. Your dog can feel and express many different feelings ranging from love to fear to protect & defend mode, and many more.  Just like humans, your pup’s feelings and emotions range from positive to negative to neutral. Your fur baby can show you how they’re feeling in lots of different ways, but exactly how do dogs show emotion?

As a general rule, dogs show their emotions through their body language, usually with their tail, ears and even facial expressions. Your dog’s overall posture will also indicate how they are feeling at the time. For example, a happy dog will have a relaxed tail and upturned ears, while an anxious dog might tuck its tail between its legs and cower.

Now let’s dive a little more in-depth into how your dog expresses emotions, as well as some of the key emotions your pup can communicate, and how you can identify them. Let’s jump into the amazing world of canine emotions!

Body Language:  How Dogs Communicate Their Feelings

Body language is the most significant indicator when it comes to trying to understand how your dog is feeling. While sometimes noises like growling or whines can help us debunk our canine friends’ emotions, body language will be the biggest clue.

Understanding what your dog is feeling will allow you and your favorite pup to grow closer and look out for each other. Below, we’ll explore some of the most key dog emotions and how your pup can express their feelings through their body language.

Happy:  The Emotion We Love to See in our Pups

how do dogs show emotion happy

When your dog is happy, there are plenty of indicators. For instance, a happy dog has their ears up or flat, not forward or stiff. Your dog’s overall posture is likely to be relaxed and open.

Their tail will most likely also be down and relaxed, not rigid in any way. An open and relaxed mouth is also a sure sign that your furry friend feels joyful and happy in their current environment. If your dog is rolling over to expose their belly, it also likely means that they’re feeling comfortable and carefree at that moment.

It should be no mystery when your dog feels happy, as there are clear signs that will help your pup communicate with you that they’re feeling joyful and relaxed.

Anxious:  Anxiety in Dogs is Just as Real as in Humans

how do dogs show emotion anxious

Your dog can express their anxiety in many different ways. For one, an anxious dog will likely have its tail lowered or tucked and will usually avoid direct eye contact. Their overall body posture will become slightly lowered as if they’re trying to convey a submissive stance.

Flat ears are also common if your pup feels anxious, and sweaty pawprints are another clear sign that your dog is currently uncomfortable and perhaps afraid in its current environment. If your dog is panting or licking its lips, it might be struggling with anxiety.

Being mindful of these factors will help you learn more about your dog and what kind of environmental factors may cause them to feel anxious. Is your furry friend exhibiting these behaviors at the dog park? Or maybe when someone new comes to the house?

Keeping this in mind will allow you to tend to your dog’s needs and emotions and keep them feeling comfortable and less anxious in specific settings.

Alert:  Your Dog is Ready for Anything

how do dogs show emotion alert

An alert dog will exhibit a very stiff and rigid posture, sometimes even becoming completely motionless. If your pup has got its eyes set on something, the eyes will remain big and bright and focused on whatever has caught its interest.

Their ears will likely be pointed forwards, and they can even be completely silent, especially if they’re trying to focus on a sound that startled them. If you’re trying to hear something from afar, you may see their eyes twitch to indicate that something has their complete attention.

Depending on the situation, your dog may even let out a low growl, especially if they feel threatened. If your dog is standing at attention and is almost motionless with its eyes staring straight ahead, you’ll know something has piqued their interest.

Angry:  Anger is Easy to Spot in Dogs

how do dogs show emotion angry anger

One of the biggest indicators of an angry dog is showing their bare teeth. They’ll also make themselves look as large as possible, especially when they feel threatened. Your dog may also lean forwards and keep most of their weight over their two front legs, just in case they feel the need to lunge forward.

Their body language will become stiff, and the fur on their back may also stand up. An angry dog’s ears are likely to be pointed upright and tense. Another obvious sign that your dog is angry is big eyes that are locked on their aggressor.

If your dog feels afraid or threatened, they are likely to become angry and act if they feel the need to defend themselves. Keeping this in mind will ensure your pup doesn’t feel threatened in the face of the unknown.

Playful:  A Fun-Loving Dog Just Makes our Day

how do dogs show emotion playful

If a dog is playful, they’ll be sure to let you know. Bringing a toy your way is a clear sign that your pup is ready to play and have fun. A relaxed and open posture is another indicator of a dog that feels playful.

A playful dog will also look as if they’re giving you a big smile, which is another telltale sign that they’re happy, relaxed, and ready to have fun. A wagging tail is your pup’s way of expressing playfulness at other times.

While these are the obvious indicators of a playful dog, all dogs are unique, and yours will show you in their special way what they’re feeling at that moment. Your pup may act more bouncy and vocal when they’re feeling playful, so it depends on each dog.

Keeping all these factors in mind will help you understand your dog better and what kinds of activities and environments spark certain emotions within them.

Fearful:  Dogs Understand Unsafe Situations

how do dogs show emotion fear

Your dog may convey fear in a few different ways, depending on the dog and the situation. A tucked tail and darting eyes can indicate that your dog is feeling afraid. They may also hunch their bodies and have flattened ears if something has made them feel scared.

Another noticeable sign of fear is when your dog will physically attempt to hide from whatever upset them. Fur standing up on their back is a clear indicator of a dog that’s been triggered by some type of external factor.

Common fears include loud noises or other animals or people that may not respect your dog’s space. Being mindful of what your dog’s triggers are and what causes them to feel fearful will help you keep them calm and feel safe at all times.

Uncertain:  A Neutral Stance Can Indicate that Your Dog is Uncertain

how do dogs show emotion neutral uncertain

This is a more neutral emotion that your dog may express if they don’t know how to react in a particular situation or environment. Any dog is likely to feel uncertain in any new setting that they’re unfamiliar with, so that’s something to consider.

Signs of uncertainty can include avoiding eye contact, yawning, lip licking, and waiting to approach. If you feel as if your dog is feeling uncertain about a new person or animal, it’s best to encourage them to get out there by showing them there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Your dog’s uncertain and cautious body language will be sure to loosen up once they become more familiar and comfortable within new environments and with new friends.


We hope you’ve enjoyed exploring all the ways that dogs show emotions.  We learned it’s mainly through body language. We also touched on some key emotions your pup may feel and how they communicate these feelings to you.

When exploring how do dogs show emotion, it’s clear to see that the way your dog can express themselves is through body language. Being mindful of your pup’s ears and tail will be sure to keep your dog and everyone around them comfortable and happy no matter what kind of mood they find themselves in.


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