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Speak! How to Decode Dog Body Language

mixed breed dog staring at camera

All relationships are about communication. Without the luxury of language, a dog uses physical cues to tell you how he’s thinking and feeling. Avoid getting lost in translation by learning to read a dog’s body language – especially if he’s trying to say, “Back off!”

National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the second full week of April each year. You can avoid and prevent injury by recognizing the signs a dog might bite.


  • Direct eye contact  


  • Ears lying flat, or stuck to the sides of their head could mean a dog is frightened and on alert. If a dog’s ears are standing high or seem to be pushed forward, the dog may be aggressive


  • An upturned nose or licking lips (when they aren’t eating) with teeth exposed means the dog could use some space
  • Exposed teeth and curled lips pulled high may mean the dog is aggressive and you should not go any closer or approach the dog


  • Raised fur between their shoulders or hair that’s raised on the entire length of their back
  • Rigid body posture
  • A stiff and straight tail. (Short, abrupt wags, or wagging at just the tip, could indicate a threat.)

You can find more dog bite prevention tips from the American Kennel Club and the Humane Society of the United States online. It’s important to read about these cues to take from dogs to help keep you safe.

Even the most well-behaved dog can bite if he’s threatened or provoked – and if your dog bites another animal or person, you’ll be held responsible. That kind of lawsuit can get expensive pretty quickly if the injured person has any long-lasting physical scars or impairments.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability, but if you’re concerned about having enough liability protection, consider a PCL policy that offers an extra $1 to $5 million in coverage. An insurance advisor like an ERIE agent can help you find the right coverage that meets your needs and budget.