(Number 2 in our ‘Learn to Speak Dog Language’ series)

“It’s not the dogs that are the issue, but the human’s relationship with and to them. So, as dog communicators, we translate to the human what their dogs are trying to tell them through their body language. That way, they change their relationship with their dog by changing how they communicate”. – our friends, the Dog Moms

There’s so much value in a solid understanding of a dog’s facial expressions and body language and, consequently, their behaviors. We collected some information on a few of the more common dog communications they share through their expressive and adorable furry faces.

Remember, though, when you make any conclusions about a dog’s facial expressions, pay attention to the rest of their body language because this is essential to get the whole message. They are like Charlie Brown and Snoopy or Simon and Garfunkel; they rarely go alone.

Dogs may smile, pant, lick or show other feelings or emotions with their mouths. Your dog’s mouth and facial expressions can also reveal what they need from you as a human.

Learning to speak their language is one of the most amazing things you can do for your relationship with your dog. Or any dog, for that matter!


A dog’s mouth, when relaxed, should be closed or just slightly open. If closed and relaxed, the skin around the mouth will be wrinkle-free, with possible exceptions for the already wrinkly or short-faced breeds.


If your dog’s mouth is relaxed and open, but they slowly close it, and their body goes still, there are lines around their mouth, then they are not happy. If you see this, use caution, especially if their body also goes still. This is often part of the freeze sequence that could lead to a bite.


Sometimes dogs lick their lips to get the last bits of the tasty thing they ate, or sometimes lick to greet or appease you.

Sometimes dogs lick themselves persistently because of allergies or some other medical issues.

But sometimes dogs lick their lips because they are stressed. Sometimes canine professionals call any lip-licking stress licking. It’s not necessarily always the situation. However, let the rest of the dog’s body language tell you what they are trying to communicate.


Yawning can happen because a dog is tired, or yawning is contagious, BUT dogs also yawn because they are stressed. Again, look at your dog’s entire body – and then decide.


Okay, some of a dog’s body language or facial expressions can be hard to read or interpret, but a snarl is pretty darn unmistakable!

Hard and glaring eyes usually come with a snarl, and the rest of the body will also be stiff, and the ears either pricked up or pinned back.

Note that the “appeasement grin” is often mistaken for a snarl because they both tend to show teeth. The submissive or appeasement grin is a bit of a mystery and rarely in dog-dog interactions but is not uncommon for dogs with awesome personalities to offer to humans.

Our theory… dogs mimic human smiles!

You may save your dog’s life, your face from being bitten, or a dog from being deemed dangerous just because they were trying to convey their discomfort, but no one was listening.

With love for all dogs.

P.S. Learning this simple yet lifesaving skill is the most loving and respectful act you can do for your dog and all dogs worldwide.

P.S.S. Our next blog in this ‘Learn to Speak Dog Language” series will be about learning to read a dog’s ears.