Understanding your dog isn't always an immediately obvious task. The poor cutie can't exactly turn to you and explain that he's feeling scared, after all. Because of this obstacle, body language may just be your safest bet. Thankfully, canines tend to be very telling when it comes to their emotions.
The Eyes Say It All
Pay attention to your dog's eyes. If his peepers look widened and unusually big, it may mean that something is intimidating him. Widened eyes also can mean that a dog is stressed out or anxious, however. At the same time, an intimidated dog might also squint his eyes, making them look a lot tinier.
If a dog is feeling vulnerable and intimidated, he may also quickly look away every time you try to make eye contact with him.
Body Near the Ground
If a doggie's body is positioned very low to the point that his stomach is practically brushing against the floor, then he's likely feeling very threatened by something. If you notice that he's gazing upward, it also may mean that he's attempting to establish a truce with a party that he feels is significantly stronger than him. This typically is a sign of not only intimidation, but pure vulnerability.
When a canine is threatened, he may keep his ears flat, making them a lot nearer the head. In some cases, threatened canines may also point their ears outward.
If a dog's mouth is shut closed, it could be because he's intimidated. Sometimes, however, frightened canines repeatedly expose their tongues only to bring them back into their mouths again shortly.
Scared dog sounds tends to be on the low and quiet side. Growling, whining and yelping out of intimidation are all common vocalizations.
When a dog is intimidated and scared, he may hold his tail lower and even hide it in the middle of his back legs. In times of abject terror, dogs sometimes keep their tails close to their stomachs.
Hair Standing On End
Similarly to cats, you may notice that dog hair often spikes up into the air during times of fear. This action is known as "piloerection." You may notice this particularly along a canine's back.
Frightened dogs also often shed a lot when afraid. If you notice hair suddenly emerging all over your floor, something may be bothering your poor pooch -- big time.
Fearful dogs sometimes try to create the illusion that their bodies are smaller than in reality. Because of this, you may observe intimidated dogs crouching over conspicuously. When a dog is threatened, he also may spring back from whatever or whomever is causing him to feel that way. His body may also seem unusually rigid.
If your dog is so intimidated that he starts feeling defensive or protective, don't be surprised if he shows his sharp teeth to serve as a warning to the other party -- yikes.
In extreme cases, a dog may also feel so out of control with fear that he may even go No. 1 or No. 2 unexpectedly.
By Naomi Millburn
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.