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Dog Body Language: The Body

This is part 2 of our series, so be sure to have read part one so you can easily get a whole picture of what your dog may be feeling. In this article, a Lincoln, NE veterinarian will address the rest of the dog to give you a more complete picture.


  • Piloerection is a fancy term for hair standing up. “Hackles raised” may be a more familiar term. This is typically associated with fear or aggression in people’s minds, but it is just indicative of arousal. They could be fearful, aggressive, unsure, or excited and playful.

Tail: (note: may be difficult to read on dogs with docked or stub tails)

  • Carrying high while still or wagging indicates high arousal. Could be related to play or aggression.
  • Carrying low/medium with a fast wag indicates a submissive or happy and playful pup.
  • Carrying low/medium with a gentle wag is a relaxed and happy dog.
  • Carrying low and still indicates they are very relaxed. Low or no arousal.
  • Tucked can indicate submission or fear.

Overall body tension:

  • A relaxed dog has a relaxed and loose body, may be in constant motion if relaxed but a little excited.
  • If you dog is frozen or minimally moving with tight muscles all over their body, they could be ready to strike. This is a posture of fear or aggression.

Play bows are a special move dogs make where they keep their rear in the air and lay down with front legs out stretched. This indicates to other dogs that everything that follows is play, even if normally interpreted as aggression.

After reading these two articles you should have a basic grasp on how to interpret your dog’s body language. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to contact your Lincoln, NE veterinarian!


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