Understanding the Secret Language of Dogs: the alert, aroused or excited dog

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 What dogs communicate through their body language can be subtle, but with practice most people can learn to recognize and interpret the gist of it.

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger,


An alert dog will appear intense and focused. Their body is upright with their weight centered over their feet.  The ears are forward and perked.  The head and neck are erect. Their tail will be raised over his back rigid and immobile. The dog’s gaze is directed toward whatever he‘s detected. Usually the mouth is closed, but depending on the intensity he might growl.  If they bark it is usually in a rapid series of 3 or 4 barks with mid-range pitch. Sometimes the hair on his shoulders or back is raised.


A dog can be aroused by a sound that we can’t hear or an odor that we can’t smell.  This type of emotion borders on being alert or excited and can escalate quickly.  The importance of knowing the difference is when the arousal pushes the dog closer to feeling frightened or aggressive. An aroused dog almost always has his hackles up. The rest of his body language depends on whether he’s feeling fearful, insecure or aggressive. Depending on the type of arousal the body may look normal-sized or larger.  Many times his ears are flattened to the side or focused forward.  The tail fluctuates between hanging low to standing tall.  Many times you may not notice what has caused the arousal as it may not be obvious to us.


Usually you can tell when a dog is excited.  They look as intense as when they are alert, but also show a playful demeanor. An excited dog is ready for action. They will look natural in size, but their weight is normally centered over the rear legs as they prepare to move. Ears are up and tail is held high, although it may or may not wag. The dog focuses on the individual or object that’s the source of his excitement. Excited dogs sometimes hold their mouths open, and may give one or two sharp short barks in a mid-range pitch.

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