Dogs Offer Clues About Their Emotions Beyond Just Tail-Wagging

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s nothing better than a happy dog, wagging its tail and smiling.

If you’ve ever wondered if your dog is happy, sad or anxious, there are signs to look for that may surprise you.

“When you’re sad and he comes right up to you, you can pet him, you can kiss him,” 9-year-old Eva Ventrella told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu about her dog “Yogi.”

Animal behaviorist Maggie Wood said there are signs that indicate a dog is anxious that many might miss, like licking its lips.

“[Licking lips and] yawning. So those are two really big indications of a dog being anxious and trying to calm herself down,” Wood told Hsu.

While a wagging tail normally means happy, there are some tell-tale signs not to engage with a dog and that they may be ready for a scuffle.

“Very, very still body, vertical tail, really looking at a dog who appears to have suddenly become immobile,” said Wood.

The ears also say a lot, said Wood.

When they’re forward and up, it can mean the dog is attentive and happy to see you.

Catalina Cruz, 10, said her dog “Ellie” says “back off” with her eyes.

“She just looks at me and like ‘ohhh.’ Like, ‘you don’t want to do that,'” Catalina told Hsu.

Ellie is a rescue dog who was adopted two years ago.

“One of her eyes she’s blind and she was abused, so you have to kind of handle her with special care and a lot of people feel that just because they have a dog that they know how to deal with a dog,” dog owner Tim Cruz told Hsu.

Cruz said people need to ask the owner first before approaching any dog.

Along with asking first, dog experts say kids need to learn to approach a dog from the side, not head-on. It’s also advised not to stare and make direct eye contact with the pooch, which can be threatening.

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