5800 Commerce Blvd,
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
707-206-9000 2120 Bluebell Dr.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
707-595-3834

How to Read Your Pet’s Body Language

By James Campbell on

Have you ever wished your pet could really tell you what she’s thinking? While dogs and cats can’t talk, they do give us a lot of clues to go on through their body language. Dogs and cats use different signals, but both send out a lot of non-verbal communication. We just need the tools to recognize the signs.

What Your Dog Is Saying

Black DogA dog’s mouth communicates a lot. A dog who is happy and relaxed may allow his mouth to hang open and maybe his tongue to loll out. When he is holding his mouth closed and tight, however, it can be a sign that he is tense or upset. Panting can be a sign that your dog is overheated or that he is stressed.

Dogs do a lot of their talking with their tails. A tail that is wagging back and forth doesn’t always mean a happy and friendly dog. Some dogs wag their tails when they are feeling aggressive; use other cues for a dog who you don’t know. When a dog is relaxed, his tail will hang down into its natural position.

A dog’s posture can be one of the best communication tools, especially for an animal who you don’t know. A dog who is trying to look smaller may feel scared or submissive. A relaxed demeanor shows that the dog is happy and contented. If a dog is standing stiffly, it may feel threatened or by showing aggression for other reasons.

Communication from Cats

relaxed catMuch of a cat’s body language is the opposite of what you’ll see from a dog. A cat who is relaxed, for instance, will hold her mouth closed.

A cat’s tail can indicate many moods. A smooth tail that is straight up indicates a cat who is friendly and happy. A bit of a bend near the end says that she is unsure. When a cat holds her tail down and under her body, it can mean that she is afraid. A tail that twitches back and forth indicates an agitated and angry cat; the faster the twitch, the angrier the cat is. A puffed out tail means that the cat is angry or frightened.

Like a dog, a cat’s body posture communicates a lot. A cat that is lying down and relaxed is content. One that is lying down but growling may be getting ready for an attack. When a cat arches her back, she could be waiting to be pet. A cat with an arched back and fur standing on end is angry or upset.

By watching your pet for a long period of time, you can begin to understand his or her moods based on body language. Be cautious of pets who are showing anger or fear; this gives them a chance to become more comfortable. Responding to friendly overtures can help strengthen your bond. Over time, you will understand what they want to say, even though they don’t have the words.

Further Reading