Tips on How to Read The Body Language of a Fearful Dog

Tips on How to Read The Body Language of a Fearful Dog

Body Language of Fearful Dogs

When a dog is feeling fearful or anxious, their body language will often give clues to their emotional state. Some common signs of fear in dogs include:

  1. Tail tucked between legs: When a dog tucks their tail between their legs, it is a clear sign of fear or anxiety. This is their way of trying to make themselves appear smaller and less threatening. Keep an eye on your dogs tail so you can see when they are starting to feel better (tail coming up).
  2. Ears pinned back: Dogs will often pin their ears back against their head when they are feeling scared or threatened. This can also be a sign that they are feeling submissive. Keep in mind some breeds have naturally pinned ears or, ears that are always flat down (Bassett Hound for example). We need to look at all other signals for these breeds.
  3. Avoidance: Fearful dogs may try to avoid eye contact or physical contact with people or other animals. They may also try to hide or retreat to a safe space. A dog turning its head away from something or someone is showing avoidance, even to another dog.
  4. Shaking or trembling: Dogs may shake or tremble when they are feeling fearful or anxious. This is a physical response to the stress and can be a clear indicator of their emotional state. Keep in mind some dogs tremble more often than others and sometimes it's from being cold (chihuahuas for example).
  5. Whale eye: If you can see the whites of your dog's eyes and they aren't normally visible this could be a sign of fear/tension. 
  6. Shake off: If your dog "shakes off" as if they just had a bath, but they aren't wet, this is an indicator that they are shaking off stress from the past few minutes. This is a good sign to watch for so you can avoid the cause next time.
  7. Paw raise: Sometimes dogs will raise one of the front paws as an indicator of stress.
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