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How to Analyze Your Puppy's Body Language

Have you ever wondered what it means when your puppy leans against you? Or what he's trying to say when he nudges you with his nose? As puppies mature, their body language becomes more distinctive.

Puppies and adult dogs use their body language to communicate with other canines and with humans. It is based on the language you see among wolves and wild dogs but our domesticated pups have also adapted their language to get what they want from us.

There are many signs of a puppy using his body language to try to communicate something to you. Consider the way they use their eyes. A puppy who looks you straight in the eye is confident and possibly bold which could signal that a test of your Alpha status is about to happen. A puppy with dilated pupils means he's afraid.

Here's how to recognize and decipher your pup's body language:


  • Relaxed ears indicate a relaxed puppy.

  • Erect ears indicate alertness. This is often the case when a puppy is curious.

  • Erect ears that are leaning forward indicate assertiveness or even aggression. Be cautious with your pup if he dons this stance.

Lips and Mouth

  • A closed mouth can mean your puppy is uncertain.

  • Licking the lips indicates a pup is trying to appease.

  • Pulled back lips are a warning sign. Again, treat your pup cautiously if he's doing this.

Hackles (This is the fur right from about the middle of the neck down to the top of the back.)

  • A pup's hackles are raised when he is sensing danger and preparing to confront it.

  • Smooth hackles indicate a calm puppy.

Positions Puppies Take

  • The Downward Dog - This indicates that a pup is excited to play.

  • Freezing in Place - This indicates that the dog is afraid.

  • Mounting - This indicates an attempt of dominance.

  • Leaning - Dogs have a different sense of personal space than humans. Leaning often is a sign of affection, an indication that your pup thinks of you as a possession (which must be corrected) or an attempt to prevent you from moving.

If you don't learn about your puppy's body language, you are missing out on an opportunity to communicate better. It makes things easier for both of you and helps prevent miscommunication such as thinking your puppy is being aggressive when he's actually just trying to play.

Learning about your puppy's body language can help ensure you won't misunderstand him. And, understanding it can help you train your dog better. It can also help you head off the dive he's about to make for the cake on the table.

Advice from Other Dog Owners 

Puppies Eat Less When They are Teething

When my dog was teething his appetite decreased quite a bit. Our vet recommended adding water to his food to soften it up, which worked great. He did not recommend that we do that all the time because the hard food helps their dental hygiene. That worked for us! Ice cubes and toys in the freezer also helped (i.e. water down a rope toy and freeze).

~TALIE D., owner of Labrador Retriever

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