It's easy to interpret a dog's behavior the same way you might interpret a friend's. But it's important to remember that dogs and humans aren't the same, and it's worth getting to know the way dogs communicate.
While this is a vast subject and we can never be sure exactly what a dog is thinking, we can start to read their signals. Here is a quick guide to getting started.
Tip: If you have kids, get them involved in learning how to read your dog's communication. This is a good way to teach them about empathy, and to help them learn to explain their own emotions.
You can tell a dog is in a friendly mood when his ears are relaxed with a flat tail and plenty of wagging and gentle eye contact.
A fearful dog is usually crouching, with his tail between his legs. He will also avoid looking you in the eye. He may roll over on his back or urinate while lying down. Be careful around a fearful dog as he may bite if he feels threatened.
If a dog's ears and tail are standing up and he is staring intently, he is showing assertion. He may put his paws on another dog's back or be pushy with the dog or with the owner.
If he stares and holds his tail motionless, growling and with his ears forward, he may be a threat. Watch out for this behavior in a dog.
When a dog pushes his chest to the ground and holds his rear and tail in the air, he is trying to initiate play.