If you are lucky enough to own a dog, chances are you talk to them pretty regularly. I mean, how else are they going to know that they are good boys and girls?
When we talk to our dogs, or even just when we are near them, we notice that they make these specific little facial expressions.
Non-dog lovers will tell you that they are just reacting to noises and it doesn't mean anything, but we all know better. Their faces show all the emotions they are feeling inside, and while not everyone can understand what they mean, there is some logic to them.
Scientists have actually been able to study dog's facial expressions, and they've found out what each of their most common looks actually means.
Check it out below so you can finally speak your dogs language and understand what they're trying to tell you!
When you dog lowers their head to look at you, giving you those pathetic puppy eyes, it means they are shy, anxious, or just trying to display that they are submissive.
Bowing their heads shows that they know they are on a lower rank than you, and they are looking to avoid a fight.
Looking into your eyes
There are a few ways a dog can look into your eyes, and they all mean very different things. It's one of those subtle changes that makes it difficult for those who aren't dog-lovers to understand, because they don't have the same ability to read their posture as well.
Hard Eye Contact:
A direct stare with unwavering attention can be intimidating. The dog is trying to assert their dominance over you, and their forward stance in a frozen position usually indicates that they are feeling threatened and protective. They may become aggressive if you don't back off.
Soft Eye Contact:
But on the flip side, you can look directly into a dog's eyes and not feel threatened in the least. Their eyes will be soft, their stance will be much more relaxed, and this is just signifying they are a happy, social dog looking for some love.
Eye contact between a dog and their owner is essential for communication and bonding. Studies have shown that when a dog makes eye contact with you, your brain gets flooded with oxytocin, a hormone responsible for making you happy and feel connected to another creature. This hormone is activated in both humans and dogs when they share this prolonged eye contact.
Another expression that dogs often give is called "whale" eyes. This is when a dog is showing off the whites of their eyes, typically because their noses are turned off to the side but their eyes are staying on the person or animal approaching them.
This happens usually right before they are going to attack, because they are trying to guard themselves or something of value to them (like a treat or toy.)
It could also mean they they are stressed in general, or maybe even that they hear something that you can't. Whatever it is, it's bothering them and they are looking to you to try and fix it.
Breaking Eye Contact
If you're having a little bit of a starring contest with your dog and they turn away, it doesn't necessarily mean you've intimidated them.
While that does happen to be the case when they are looking at other dogs in an attempt to gain dominance, their ability to break eye contact with their owners simply means they are comfortable enough that they don't need to watch you.
It shows that they are not trying to challenge you and that they are happy with the way things are. You can train your dog to be comfortable looking at you in the eyes though, by reinforcing the moments they do gaze into your eyes lovingly.
Avoiding Eye Contact
It's different than breaking contact you've already made. If you come across a dog who does not want to make eye contact with you at all, it's because they are not trusting the people around them.
They may just be uninterested in the attention you're offering, or they may be uncomfortable with you and feeling a little bit shy. Give these dogs some space and let them warm up to you.
While a squinting human is usually seen as a glare or aggressive act, in dogs it's something quite different. It depends on if they were looking at your or not when the squinting started.
Squinting during eye contact:
If you're looking into your dogs beautiful eyes and they start squinting, it's not because they're judging you, it's actually because they're happy. It's just them thinking about you and relaxing.
Squinting when not looking at you:
If you notice your dog sitting down beside you on the couch just squinting into the distance, you may want to check in with them. Squinting or rapid blinking can indicate that your dog is in pain or feeling a lot of stress. Dogs often disguise their pain when they think you're looking, so it's when they don't notice you watching them that's they let it slip through.
I know what some of you are thinking, "Dogs don't have eyebrows." Well, you're wrong. Dogs may not have the same kind of eyebrows that we do, but they do still have a similar type of muscle control right above their eyes that mimics our ability to raise and lower our eyebrows based on our moods.
A raised eyebrow by your dog means that they are paying attention, and trying to understand the words and commands you are staying to them. It means they are alert and ready to listen.
The classic head tilt is probably the most iconic dog expression that each and every one of us cherishes any time our dogs do it. But what does it mean?
It's pretty obvious, but it means your dog is curious. They tilt their head to try and change their positioning to show you they've got their ears open and their eyes on you.
And as a bonus, it's super adorable.
Yawning & Licking Lips
Yes, when we yawn it's mostly because we are tired, but there's actually another cause in both humans and dogs: Stress.
It's extremely common in pets to start yawning excessively when they start to get a little stressed or anxious.
Licking their lips is a similar response. It might mean that they had just been eating something, but if that's not the case it's usually a nervous habit like when some people bite their lips.
Dogs showing off their teeth isn't always a sign of aggression, dogs are actually capable of giving you a big ol' smile.
If they have shown off their teeth and are happily wagging their tail, it just means they are having a great time.
When they are smiling at other dogs it means that they are trying to show off how friendly and submissive they are, so it's basically them trying to make a new friend.
There's a bit of a difference when it comes to a smile and snarl, and the best way to tell the difference is by their nose.
If their nose is pulling their cheeks up to reveal the teeth then they are baring their teeth to you in an aggressive way, while a smile will usually just be opening their whole mouth or just the corners of the lips.
Also, makes sure you watch their body language, because a snarling dog may lean forward, hunching over slightly, while a smiling dog will just trot around like normal.