Wouldn’t it be great if your if your dog could talk to you? No more guessing if he’s hungry, needs to go out, or just wants a little affection. He could say, “I’m not feeling well” and you could take him to the vet before waiting until things get more serious. She could let you know that someone was sneaking around your yard while you were at work … you know, little things.

Alas, our dogs cannot talk to us, but they do give us many clues as to how they’re feeling – we just have to pay attention. Their eyes, mouth, tails, and overall body language can give us many clues as to what’s going on with our furry friend.

It’s all in the eyes. If your dog’s eyes are bigger than normal, it could be that they may feel stressed, frightened or aggressive. Smaller eyes could also indicate a sign of fear or stress. However, if their eyes look squinted, it might be a sign of physical discomfort. Where your dog looks also is telling. Looking directly into another dog’s eyes is a sign of aggression. If your dog has a bone or toy and glares at you out of the corner of his eye (so the eye appears mostly white), this is a signal to back off.

Lip service. You can tell when a dog is feeling aggressive because they typically pull their lips back and display their teeth. They may even wrinkle their nose in a snarl. This is different from a the grin some dogs will display when they’re feeling submissive. The accompanying body language is also a big clue when trying to read the mood of your dog.

Tall tails. Some people might be surprised to learn a tail wag isn’t always a sign of friendliness. A relaxed dog typically holds their tail in a natural position. If they’re extremely happy, they may wag it from side to side or in a circular motion, and it’s usually pretty forceful. However, a dog that’s guarding something may also wag his tail. This type of wag is usually more rigid, and his body language will be stiff and tense.

Getting to know your pup means paying attention to small changes in their posture and expression. Mastering this can mean more comfort for your dog, and a healthier, happier pet for your family to enjoy.