Dog Body Language

There may be times you find yourself coming in to contact with a strange dog while walking or busying yourself in your own yard.  Many people have a fear of strange dogs, this is not uncommon and if you are in doubt, it is best not to become involved with a strange animal.

If you find yourself in contact with a a strange dog, either on your property, on a City sidewalk or street, or on some other property, it might be helpful to understand how dogs, "communicate".  Dogs will use body language to describe how they are feeling and also to express warnings of discomfort.

Below, you find a general guide regarding examples of the most typical dog body language.  It is not recommended that you approach any strange dog, as smells and certain types of dress can change a dogs mood.  If a dog is displaying a playful disposition, it may become confused by a smell or something you are wearing.  The below guide is to help you identify dogs and their moods so you can feel more comfortable while moving away from them.

It is advised that even if you see a person walking their dog, and you have an interest in petting their animal, always stop  a short distance away and ask before attempting to pet their dog.  Sometimes without reassurance from their owner, the dog may see the approach as an invasion and may see to protect their owner.

We recommend that if you see, or come in contact with, a strange dog, you contact Animal Control at the Chadron Police Department at (308) 432-0510.


It's usually safe to pet a relaxed dog, but make sure he hasn't fallen asleep.



This dog may be well socialized and ready to play, although they may not want to be touched by strangers, so they will bounce away turn and run wildly.

May be bouncing into this position, tail wagging.



Dogs will display this behavior - exposing their belly - when they recognize that you are dominant over them and they will not typically show aggressive behavior.  May become Anxious & Nervous or Frightened when approached.

Laying on its back, paws and tail tucked in.

calm & neutral


This is the dog you'll want to pet.  He's calm, neutral, and relaxed.  There is not tension in his body and he's probably panting happily and waiting for you to come over and just say, "Hi."



This dog may just be really interested in what is going on.

Ears forward, mouth may be closed, leaning forward.



An overly excited dog may jump up, knock you over, scratch you with his paws, or even nip you with his teeth.  This behavior is often confused with aggression.

Ready to pounce or chase, ears forward, fast wagging tail.



Tail forward, held high.  Body stiff, will move in close and place chin on or high against head or body.

anxious & nervous


This dog is uncomfortable or doesn't know what's going on.  It's best not to pet him.

Ears back, leaning back or turning the body, tail low, tip may wag.



This dog might bite to defend itself and may become aggressive.

Ears flattened, crouching, tail tucked between legs.



DO NOT RUN AWAY FROM AN AGGRESSIVE DOG, stand still, ("be a tree") and look away (use peripheral vision to keep an eye on the dogs movements).  Do not raise your arms or make sudden movements.

Stiff, no hackles, tail may appear to be wagging, but is stiff and, "flagging", teeth will be bared, dog will growl and bark.

guarding stance


Dogs will typically display this behavior when you approach their home territory, food, or if they feel threatened.  This is a warning, and your chance to back away... DO NOT RUN.

Head lowered, ears forward, teeth bared, or mouth closed, body tense, in runners stance - ready to move forward or back quickly.