Read Your Dog's Body Language
Dogs have a language that allows them to communicate their emotional state and their intentions to others around them. Although dogs use sounds and signals, much of the information that they send is through their body language, specifically their body postures and facial expressions.
You have to look at the dog's face and his whole body in order to understand what your dog is saying. To help you, I have created a sort of visual version of a Berlitz phrase book to allow you to interpret the eight most important messages your dog is sending to you.
1. Relaxed Approachable
This dog is relaxed and reasonably content. Such a dog is unconcerned and unthreatened by any activities going on in his immediate environment and is usually approachable. Regardless, approach new dogs with caution and don't attempt to rush a dog into a greeting, even if they seem relaxed.
2. Alert- Checking Things Out
If the dog has detected something of interest, or something unknown, these signals communicate that he is now alert and paying attention while he is assessing the situation to determine if there is any threat or if any action should be taken.
This one is a very dominant and confident animal. Here he is not only expressing his social dominance, but is also threatening that he will act aggressively if he is challenged. Knowing whether your dog is submissive or dominant can help you build a better relationship with your dog, and also be aware of how other dogs around you may act.
5. Anxious and Nervous
This dog is under stress. These signals, however, are a general "broadcast" of his state of mind and are not being specifically addressed to any other individual.
This dog is somewhat fearful and is offering signs of submission. If your dog is always showing these symptoms, he may feel uncomfortable in his environment and you should try a few extra tips to make your dog feel relaxed.
7. Total Submission
This dog is indicating total surrender and submission. He says that he accepts his lower status by groveling before a higher ranking or hopes to avoid a physical confrontation.
Here we have the basic invitation to play. It may be accompanied by excited barking or playful attacks and retreats. This set of signals may be used as a sort of "punctuation mark" to indicate that any previous rough behaviour was not meant as a threat or challenge.