Your dog’s body language is like a book: if you learn to read it, you’ll become fluent in their needs. Of course, if their body is a book, their face is the cover. And, as the old saying goes, you should always judge a book by its cover. Dogs, like humans, have a facial expression for every mood. Once you can sort the “get away from me“s from the “please don’t leave my side!“s, your relationship will flourish. Follow our guide below, and you’ll be decoding your dog in a flash!
First thing’s first: how does your dog’s facial expression relate to their body language?
No dawn can break without the darkness. No Seth Rogen film can succeed without an appearance from James Franco. And no canine facial expression will exist without accompanying body language. Before you attempt to decipher your pooch’s face, first consider what their body is telling you.
For example, if your pup stares into your eyes while they wiggle their tail and rear in circles, they’re happy. If, however, they look into your eyes while their tail stands out stiff behind them, beware! They’re on edge, and they’re ready to issue a challenge to you.
With that out of the way, what can we learn from your furry friend’s face?
Speaking of your dog’s eyes: man, those furry folks can say a lot with their peepers! If their eyes are wide and unblinking while they stare directly at you, they’re feeling some pretty intense emotions. Once again, you can unpack the nature of these feelings by reading their body language and facial expression in tandem.
If their tail is curving stiffly over their back, or stretching rigidly behind them, their wide eyes are bad news. They’re throwing down a doggy gauntlet, and if you keep staring at them, they’ll take it as a threat. Combine these symptoms with whale eye, and you have one tense pooch on your hands. The best way to calm them is to blink, cast your eyes to the side, and slowly back away.
If, however, your pooch is wiggling their tail in circles while they refuse to blink, rejoice! They’re feelin’ good – and they’re hoping to include you in their good times.
In regards to squinting – in most cases, a squinty dog is a happy dog. More pats, please!
What their mouth can say without barking
Have you ever looked at someone’s pursed lips and just known that person was having a bad day? Well, the same principle applies to dogs. The tension with which they hold their mouths says a lot about their state of mind.
Is your pup’s mouth open and hanging loosely? They’re having a great ol’ time.
Have they closed their mouths but relaxed their jaw and facial muscles? They’re still feeling pretty chill.
Have they clamped their jaw shut tightly, causing their mouth to cut a taut line across their face? You have three options:
- They’re doing something which requires lots of concentration, like chasing a tennis ball or digging for a bone they buried
- They may be suffering from pain or discomfort – whether it’s a chronic medical condition or a splinter in their foot
- They’re on the cusp of lashing out at another dog, cat, toddler, or other creature. In this case, your pooch’s commissures (the corners of their mouth) will curl forward before they attack
To know which is which, you’ll need to look to their body language and the wider context of their environment. If their tail is wagging and they’ve been smiling for most of the day, it’s probably Option 1. They may have seen something interesting but harmless, like a well-shaped stick or a football. If they’re moving more slowly than usual or their tail is low, it’s likely to be Option 2. Conduct a tip to tail check, and if you don’t find any lesions or injuries, take them to a vet. If their body language is hostile, their eyes are wide, or they’ve noticed another provocative creature, it’s Option 3. In this situation, you’ll need to part them from the source of their ire and let them take a breather.
Do you need a hand deciphering your doggy’s facial expressions? Book a face-reading Dog Sitter today!