Dog Park Body Language

And What It Means

The ideal body language is playful, but dogs will exhibit a variety as they encounter new situations, run in to old friends, and meet dogs with different play styles! Looking for balanced play between dogs – sometimes one is on top and next time he’s on the bottom. 

Playful Body Language to Encourage: 

Dog's speak to each other through their bodies. Just by looking at our dogs, we can tell if they're happy, nervous, or if they'd like a bite of our lunch!

If you see these behaviors

  • ​Back and forth play – dogs change position – role reversals.

  • Bouncy, exaggerated gestures.

  • Wiggly bodies.

  • Open relaxed mouth.

  • Play-bows.

  • Twisted leaps or jumps.

  • Pawing the air.

Behavior to Watch For:

Identify what is causing your dog to display these signs. While fun, the dog park can be a stressful environment (just like a party is for many people). Knowing when your dog is ready to take a break and when they need your support is part of learning to understand your dog.

  • Fast wagging low tail.

  • Whimpering.

  • Ears may be back.

  • Hiding behind objects or people.

  • Dog will try to look small.

  • Tail tucked.

  • Hunched over, head down.

  • Tense.

Behavior that Requires Intervention:

A game that started out in good fun can take a serious turn when either party is over-stimulated! 

  • Pinning (holding another dog down and standing stiffly over them).

  • Shadowing another dog (following) incessantly.

  • Bullying (repeatedly bothering another dog that does not want to interact).

  • Fast non-stop running with a group – high arousal situation.

  • Full-speed body slams.

  • Putting head repeatedly onto another dog’s neck or back.

  • Staring with a fixed gaze directly at another dog.

  • Snarling or raised lips.

  • Showing teeth.

  • Hackles (hair along the backbone) up at the shoulders.