Dogs are very expressive animals. However, they don’t express themselves the same way we do, with words – instead, their vehicles for expression include their tails, their tongues, their eyes, and their ears. Even the way they hold their weight can tell you something about how they feel! It’s important not to misinterpret your dog’s body language or barking.

Follow this simple guide to understand some of your dog’s most common emotions.

Decoding Your Dog: What Fido is Trying to Tell You [Infographic]

How to Tell If Your Dog is Bored

Is your dog bored? Different dogs make their boredom known in different ways. Some dogs become absolutely lethargic, ignoring your attempts to interact and even losing interest in their favorite toys, foods, or activities. Other dogs grow clingy, following you around and making it obvious that they are starved for attention by barking or whining incessantly.

Bored dogs can be destructive dogs; if Fido is lacking for entertainment, he may amuse himself by destroying furniture or chewing up furnishings while you are away.

How Do You Keep Your Dog from Being Bored?

If your dog seems like he’s getting bored, you can spark your dog’s interest by trying new activities, like putting a new spin on fetch or going on a walk to a new place. Sometimes the right new toy is all it takes to get your dog interested again.

If your dog is bored while you are gone, consider taking him to doggy daycare once a week – he’ll relish the chance to play with other dogs and will come home worn out and content. If you are going to be away for longer, for example on vacation, you could even send him to doggy summer camp!

Whatever you do, don’t punish your dog or yell at him for barking – all that will do is make him associate barking with getting attention from you!

How to Tell If Your Dog is Excited

If your dog is excited, you’re going to know it – he will be racing or jumping around boisterously, and might be making quick, high-pitched barks. His tail will be wagging quickly from side to side and he may appear to be bowing at you – this is called the “play bow” and it is an invitation to play!

Playing with your dog will let him release some pent-up energy. Try fetch, Frisbee, or just running around together in the backyard. You could even try incorporating Fido into your exercise routine – he’ll have a blast walking or running with you.

How to Calm Your Dog Down

Once Fido is worked up, it can be hard to get through to him! If tiring your dog out doesn’t seem to be calming him down, first ensure that you are projecting calmness yourself. If you are jittery and excited, your dog will just mirror you.

If your dog gets overly excited when visitors arrive, try putting him on a leash and distracting him by giving him commands. Make sure you reward your dog for calming down with treats.

How to Tell If Your Dog is Scared

When a dog is scared, it will either react by cowering away from the source of its fear, or bristling up and trying to scare off the potential threat. The signal of fear in dogs that many people are familiar with is the tail tucked between its legs, but even if your dog isn’t doing this, his downward-pointing ears and rounded eyes may give him away.

How to Make Your Dog Feel Safe

To make your dog feel safe again, narrow down exactly what is scaring your dog. Sometimes, it is obvious, and sometimes it is not. If the source of his fear is a person or another dog, you’ll want to move him away from them right away and project a calm demeanor. It can help to distract him by giving commands and rewarding him with a treat. Never punish a dog for being afraid.

When your pet feels safe again, it might be necessary to work towards desensitizing him to his fears. Reintroduce the source of his fear and reassure him that he is okay. Over time, this should help ease his fears.

How to Tell If Your Dog Feels Threatened

For new pet owners or those less familiar with dogs, it can easy – and dangerous – to confuse a threatened or angry dog with an excited dog. On the surface, both reactions might look similar. The dog may be running around and barking. However, a threatened dog will bare his teeth and may growl. His tail will be standing straight up and the whites of his eyes will be visible. A more subtle cue is if he is standing in an off-balance way, as though ready to lunge forward.

How to Calm Down a Threatened Dog

Calm down your dog by removing him from the source of his aggressive reaction, if possible. Using a muzzle is a good precaution. It is important to understand that an aggressive dog can be dangerous to you and those around you. It is important to consult a professional if aggression problems persist.

According to the ASPCA, spaying or neutering may decrease your dog’s aggression towards other dogs, but it should not be considered a quick fix for behavioral problems.

How to Tell If Your Dog is Happy

If your dog seems calm, his tail is wagging and his mouth seems relaxed (maybe his tongue is even showing), congratulations – you’ve got a happy dog!

How to Keep Your Dog Happy

There are many things you can do to ensure that your dog lives a long, healthy, and happy life. Keep your dog’s food and water fresh and clean. Schedule regular veterinary checkups for your dog. Take your dog on walks with you and give him opportunities to run and play outdoors. Fido will be grateful to you for providing such a welcoming environment, and he will hopefully be there to bring a smile to your face for many years to come.

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  • juanita ˜ February 15, 2015 , 7:41 am

    My dog Mandy is all of a sudden scared and anxious at night. She is 10. Nothing seems to comfort her. At a loss as what to do. Anxious when we as well. Any ideas?

  • Cindy ˜ February 15, 2015 , 7:19 am

    My 12 week old puppy wants to use me as a chew toy. I have bought several different types of toys, 2 soft cloth with sqeeky noises( one like fur, one like a towel), Nyla plastic bones, sqeeky ball with nubs sticking out, hard rubber ball with a bell, 2 different sized balls an a rope, a rubber pull toy, and when we play she brings the toy back close to any part of my body (leg,foot,hand,arm)and tries to nip and bite. Everything is done in play, and I tell her no if she bites but she continues to do it. If I don’t play with her, my furniture suffers. We take her on long hikes almost everyday to try and release her energy but it doesn’t seem to help. She knows how to come, sit, stay for about a minute and learning to lay down but she still wants to use my body parts as a chew toy. How do I break her of this. I have to tell her no to many times when she starts this behavior so she tunes the word” no” out. I don’t want to hurt her and if she bites too hard I do smack her firmly on the nose, but it sinks the teeth in a little further. Ugh. How do I stop her from biting me when we play?

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