Reading Your Dog's Body Language

Dogs use a range of sounds to communicate with us and each other. Just as important is the body language they use to tell us how they feel or what they need. How well do you know your pooch’s unspoken cues? Read on to find out.


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Why do dogs stare?

Dogs often stare at their owners because they love them. They want to make sure you’re okay or find clues for what you’ll do next — like making sure you’re not going for a car ride without them.

We love it when dogs do this, too, which has led to this trait being even more prominent. Dr. James Serpell, BSc, PhD, Professor of Humane Ethics & Animal Welfare at University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, explains: “We've selected dogs for this behavior. Humans love that dogs look up at them in admiration, intense loyalty. One frequent observation researchers have made is that people who handle wild dogs ... they don't look their handlers in the eye like domesticated dogs do.”

Why do dogs tilt their heads?

Dogs have great hearing. High-frequency sounds that humans can’t hear are especially interesting to them. Head-tilting helps them track down the source. Owners find these head tilts super cute and often reward this behavior, which, of course, makes them do it more.

Why do dogs yawn?

Dogs yawn when they’re tired, but it’s also a possible sign they’re stressed, impatient or frustrated — like when they’re in the vet’s office, or when you won’t throw that ball you’re holding already!


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Why do dogs sit on your feet?

In a recent IAMS poll,* 90% of dog owners said their pet sits or lays on their feet and 100% of dogs said they love their owners. Dogs are very social creatures and this is a way for them to connect and be close to you. Plus, it keeps your feet warm.


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Why do dogs raise their hair?

Often called “raised hackles,” dogs do this when they’re nervous, threatened or showing aggression. It’s an adaptation from their wild days of attempting to make themselves look bigger.

Dr. Tammie King, Applied Behavior Technical Leader at Waltham Petcare Science Institute, offered this insight to keep in mind: “What’s important when talking about a dog’s body language is to not take one thing in isolation. You’re at risk of misinterpreting what the dog is trying to say to you. Context is everything.”

So be sure to pay attention to what your dog isn’t saying to keep them healthy and happy. Serving them IAMS dog food every day will certainly help.

*Surveyed U.S. dog owners, age 18+ 

Sample Size: n=201 

Fielded May 8 to May 10, 2020