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Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language – Body Positions

Looking at your dog’s body position can often tell you more about their intentions.

Different body positions of dogs

Leaning Backwards

Body position leaning backwards, or a weight shift backwards can indicate the dog is unsure.

Leaning Forward

A body position learning forwards or weight shifted forwards can indicate confidence or intent.

Standing Neutral

A neutral body position is where the dog is standing in balance, it is more likely if the dog is relaxed.


Sitting (when not cued) is a clear communication signal that the dog means no harm and can indicate intentions to calm a situation down.


A play bow indicates a dog’s intentions to play, he may be ready to play but not necessarily calm. Dogs can also use a play bow to calm down a situation or interaction between another dog/s and as a polite greeting.

Exposed Belly

A dog may roll over and expose their belly for several reasons and they can have different meanings. Again, we look at the whole body. If the dogs rolls over and has an open, smiling face, relaxed body then they are probably liking the interaction. If the dog rolls over and has a tight face and body and is quite still or stiff, they are looking for the interaction to end and require space.


Freeze can happen in different contexts. It’s usually when a dog is feeling a high level of unease. It can happen when a dog is guarding a resource, uncomfortable with an interaction, or trying to give a clear signal to maintain distance. A freeze is often seen just before a growl, snap or bite as a warning to ‘back off’. A freeze may only occur for a split second and may be accompanied by other signals such as a tight mouth, whale eye and lowered head.

Displacement Behaviours

Displacement behaviours are normal behaviours displayed out of context. They are usually seen if a dog isn’t quite sure what else to do, may have some uncertainty, be overwhelmed or have conflicting emotions. Examples are scratching, rolling, sniffing the ground and humping.

It’s important to read the dog’s whole body and not just one part. Also take into consideration the context in which the behaviour is happening.

Learn more about your dog’s body language with our other articles in the body language series.
Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language – Ears
Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language – Eyes
Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language – Tail
Understanding Your Dog’s Body Language – Mouth

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