Dog Body Language Resources Online

Can you read your dog's body language?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

It's hard to learn to read dog body language in real time, because dogs just move so fast. So yay for the Internet, where you can find a bajillion photos, articles, and videos about dog signals. Here are a few of my favorites: 

The SAFER test is a procedure for evaluating the behavior of shelter dogs, to see whether they're good candidates for adoption, or need some behavior modification before they can be placed, or can't be placed at all. Though SAFER is meant for shelter professionals, the test's "behavior glossary," with descriptions and videos, is free online for anyone to use. It isn't a complete directory of all dog body language, but the visuals are super clear and accurate.

The trainer Stacy Braslau-Schneck had a guide to dog behavior and body language on her old website; those pages are still available on the Wayback Machine. Stacy's discussion of stress signals, and the difference between stress and distress, is especially useful. Eryka Kahunanui's blog, Paws to Rufflect, gets a special prize for her post about hugging dogs, with photos of dogs really not liking it in subtle ways that most people miss (and that get many people bitten).

The prize for Unintentionally Educational Photo Blog goes to the Dogblog, which belongs to someone who takes pictures of dogs left tied up outside stores.

Dogblog is an encyclopedia of doggy stress and unhappiness; for instance, check out the March 13 entry. Both dogs have worried, stiff faces; the brown-and-white dog in front has pinned his or her ears and has a tightly shut mouth, and the dogs are as far away from each other as they can get.

Phew! And now two videos, more cheerful than that. "Pack Leader" cracks me up every time. Young dog is on sofa. Older dog gets up on other end of sofa and settles in for a snooze. Young dog pesters older dog. Pesters older dog. Pesters older dog. Older dog gets fed up. A beautiful illustration of how tolerant behaviorally healthy dogs are and how carefully they modulate their response. The title dryly makes a point about the heavyhanded "pack" ideas some dog trainers are still shoveling out.

I'll end with this delightful doggy play video: it's what to watch if you want to know what's going right at the dog park. Enjoy!

Jolanta Benal is the author of The Dog Trainer’s Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).