Much like us, pups communicate with body language, using their faces, tails, and ears, says trainer Justin Silver, author of The Language of Dogs. "Dogs are very expressive and, just like people, unafraid to use their faces and bodies to convey what they’re saying," he says. "Understanding a dog’s posture and signals gives you a fast track into predicting their next move."
For instance, a cute, tilted head may mean your pooch heard a sound he likes (such as car keys or a familiar word). Silver also cautions that "the individual cues are just pieces of a bigger picture, so be ready to tailor this information with your best friend in mind."
Silver decodes 15 more signals—like when a dog looks away from you—below.
"Dogs generally squint when in pain, not feeling well and if feeling fear."
Big bug eyes
"When the eyes are big and pinning, or fixated, on something, aggression could be on the way."
Aww! This means your pup is "affection seeking."
Looking away when you look
"That’s a polite dog going out of his way to let you know that he comes in peace."
Avoiding eye contact
"A dog that avoids eye contact altogether may consider you a threat or lack confidence."
Maintaining eye contact
"Should a dog’s casual stare turns into a fixed, tense glare, calmly look away to signal that you mean no harm. Warning: Dogs have learned that it’s okay to look people in the eye but when a dog looks directly into another dog’s eyes, it is often the equivalent of fighting words."
Exposing the whites of the eyes
"When you’re mainly seeing the whites of a dog’s eyes, aggression may soon follow. That tense stare that comes out of the corner of the eyes is often associated with dogs are hyper protective of toys, territory, or food."
Slightly open mouth
"Soft eyes and a relaxed, slightly agape mouth or loosely closed mouth is the sign of a chilled out pooch."
"The mouth is slightly open, the corners of the lip are turned up—that’s a relaxed dog."
Lips turned up
"This is a fearful animal. A dog may expose some teeth accompanied by fear-based body language (tail tucked, lowered head, ears back). It is anything but aggressive but often mistaken for it.
"Usually a dog will 'point' his ears towards a target in an effort to zone in. They are outstanding eavesdroppers."
Ears pulled back
"Flattened ears are a show of concern, timidity, and often genuine fear."
"A wagging tail does not necessarily mean friendly. It can actually be a sign of aggression, particularly when the tail is at twelve o’clock and moving in a sharp, quick, vibrating motion." Big, wide wags means a happy dog.
High and tight tail
"The higher and tighter the tail, typically, the more alerted and on-guard the dog will be."
"Excessive shedding can be indicative of fear as well as stress. People will notice this when a vet or a groomer is handling their dog."
"When the hair along the spine or part of it raises, a dog is experiencing a strong emotion. It is not necessarily aggression, but more typical of fear, apprehension, nervousness or intense excitement."
The Language of Dogs by Justin Silver will release on Sept. 23.