Dogs communicate with each other using their body language. Some of it is quite subtle, others like a fast-moving wagging tail, not so subtle. If you want to know what your puppy’s body language is telling you, read on for signs from each part of their body.

Here are the most common things to look for:

The Tail

Low and not moving – relaxed

Tucked Underneath – showing submission or fear

Usual low carriage but gently wagging – happy and relaxed

Usual low carriage but wagging fast – excited and happy

Higher than usual carriage either still or wagging – Arousal excitement or tension. Could be regarding a perceived positive (eg. play) or negative (eg. aggressive) situation.


Pinned back – showing submission or fear

Back but relaxed – Relaxed and friendly

Forward and relaxed – Focused and friendly

Pricked forward – Focused, excited, aroused (play or aggression), assertive


Looking off to the side, not making eye contact – Submission, fearful, respectful.

Squinting – Submissive or relaxed greeting

Soft and direct eye contact – Happy, relaxed and friendly

Open wide – Confident and assertive

Hard stare – Confrontational, alert, excited or aroused


Lips relaxed – Calm, friendly and relaxed

Lips pulled back – Submissive, fearful 

Lips moving forward, or lifting into a snarl – Threatening

Licking lips and yawning – Stressed, fearful or feeling tired!

Body Posture

Leaning back, body lowered, hackles may be raised. – Submissive or fearful 

Standing straight at their full height – Confident

Leaning forward, standing tall, hackles may be up – Alert, excited, aroused either for play or aggression, assertive

Shoulder low and hindquarter high – Play bow, invitation to other dogs that they would like to play.


Raised hackles – sign of arousal, often aggression but also be when fearful or uncertain.

If you want to know what your puppy’s body language is telling you, learn the signs so you can better communicate during training.