Understanding the Secret Language of Dogs: happy or playful dogs

Most people can recognize a happy or playful dog.  They have a relaxed body language.

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger,


Everything about a happy dog is relaxed.  You can almost feel the friendliness through his body.  All his muscles are relaxed.  The ears are in their natural positions. His tail is relaxed or swinging side to side or in a circular motion.  Sometimes the entire butt seems to moving with the tail.  When you look at his face, it isn’t tense.  His mouth is closed or slightly opened and many times with the corners turned up as if to smile.  Panting is slow and steady.   His eyes are bright and open.


Most people can detect when a dog is feeling playful. All his body movements are jerky and bouncy. Many times they bounce around in exaggerated twists, turns and leaps. They might try to paw at you, dodge around you, or take off running to encourage you to chase them. Some dogs might try to jump at you in excitement. Dogs enjoy a variety of play styles but whenever they play you will see the characteristic “play bow” that’s common across all dogs. When your dog play bows, he bounces into position with his forelegs on the ground and his hind legs extended so that his rear sticks up. This signal is extremely important because it tells the dog’s playmate that he is playing so don’t take anything serious.  Some dogs also show a happy facial expression characterized by a partially open mouth that almost looks as though the dog is smiling. A playful dog might also growl or make high-pitched barks that start in middle range but rise sharply in pitch similar to a bark-yelp.

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