Claire Hargrave - BSc(Hons), MSc, PGCE, C Sci, C Chem, MRSC, DAS(CABC), CCAB

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Reading your puppy’s body language

Claire Hargrave - BSc(Hons), MSc, PGCE, C Sci, C Chem, MRSC, DAS(CABC), CCAB
Reading time: 2 minutes

We know how important body language is in communication between humans, so as your puppy can’t speak to you, it is even more important to understand what your puppy’s body language is telling you.

Understanding your puppy’s signals is not always easy, but here we look at four key stances to recognise and advise on how to react when you see them.


Ears flat, tail down, dog panting, blinking or raising paw

These are signs your pet is uncomfortable and could escalate into growling or biting. Take your puppy away from the situation and give them something calming to do, such as a gentle training exercise they are familiar with.


Busy, with an active tail

A dog wagging its tail may be feeling happy, but could also be over-excited. Be wary of dogs that you don’t know doing this and learn to recognise the difference in your puppy.


Lips and muzzle relaxed, even stance

In a happy stance, the dog will be standing evenly on four legs, with a relaxed face. A dog leaning back or forwards is a sign they want to get away from a situation, or feel anxious.


Rolling on back, tummy exposed, releasing ‘submission’ urination

A shy dog will do this when feeling threatened. Don’t tower over them. Instead, lead them to a safe place. Remove your puppy from the situation and use a gentle distraction such as a quiet puzzle feeding exercise to help them recover.

Claire Hargrave - BSc(Hons), MSc, PGCE, C Sci, C Chem, MRSC, DAS(CABC), CCAB

Claire Hargrave is the only Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist accredited by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) working in Wales. She is also a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors. As the animal behaviour profession is as yet unregulated, and to ensure that a behaviourist has an adequate level of practical and theoretical experience, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Dogs Trust and the R.S.P.C.A. advise veterinary surgeons and members of the public to ensure that they only seek advice from behaviourists accredited by ASAB or who hold APBC membership.

Puppy of the week


  1. Daisy Daisy on 23 September 2019 at 20:36

    We are trying to teach our 19 week old puppy to bark at the back door when she needs to go out to toilet. She will bark at the door on command but not on her own, so she still sometimes soils inside the house. Why hasn’t she made the connection that barking at the door means she wants to go out? We’ve been doing this for about 6 days now.

    • on 4 October 2019 at 06:54

      Morning Angela, Nick Jones MA our dog behaviourist has given us some advice for you:
      “My main advice here is to stick with it as she is still very young and you just might be expecting too much at this age. Stick with the principle and it should come good for you. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are also dog bell devices on the market and your dog may prefer that approach? Please be aware that I spend a lot of time undoing barking behaviours and so you might thank me for the bell alternative later down the line.

      Regardless of where you are with the barking and/or bell approach, your dog may still need to be taken out every hour in the day (you can vary the timing based on your dog’s needs) until your dog is clean and dry in the home.”

      Good luck – Charlotte


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