Dog and Cat Signaling

How can you tell if a dog is nice and will allow you to touch them? Can you tell if they are scared? Can you tell if a cat is scared? Dogs and cats will show different signals to say what they are feeling. It is up to us to pick up on these ques so we don’t get bit!

Dog Aggression:
dog aggression

There are a couple different forms of aggression. There is the regular confident aggression and then fear aggression. The more confident aggressive dog will wrinkle its nose and lift the lips only showing a few teeth. The ears will usually be turned to the side. The pupils will only be slightly dilated. The tail will also be elevated and rigid. These are the dogs that are confident they can hurt you.
The fear aggressive dogs will look more like the dog in the drawing. They will have the same wrinkling of the nose but there will be subtle differences. The pupils will be very dilated, the hair on the back will be raised, the tail will be tucked, and they will show all of their teeth. They will also look at you out of the corner of their eye, and it will be quick glances around. These are the dogs to be most careful around because they are extremely unpredictable. They are very scared and will randomly attack.

Happy Dog:
playful dog

These are the signs of a dog that just wants to play. They will be in this “play stance.” The tail is up and wagging everywhere, their hind end is in the air with the front end closer to the ground and their tongue may be hanging out. After a couple seconds of being in the position, they will run in a random direction. These dogs do not wish to harm you, they just want to play. If you run, chances are they will chase you.

Cat Signaling:

Reading a cat’s face is the first step to figuring out what they could be feeling. Very relaxed eyes and ears halfway between completely out and completely forward is a sign the cat is happy or content. Ears completely forward and very wide eyes are a sign of excitement or curiosity.
Cats also have a confident aggression as well as a fear aggression. The confident aggressor will have the ears pointing sideways and the brows dropped slightly. The fearful cat will have it’s ears pinned back and down and will be crouched very low. These cats will be hissing and spitting. Just like the fearful dogs, these cats are very unpredictable.


A cat’s tail can also tell us about how they are feeling. A widely, slowly moving tail usually means the cat is content and happy. If the tail becomes puffed up and held straight back, the cat is likely scared. If the tip of the tail is flicking back and forth, the cat is becoming upset and we don’t have much time to leave them alone. A scared cat will tuck the tail very tightly under the body.

For cats, we have to use both the signs of the face with the actions of the tail to be able to tell what they are feeling.

These signals are very important to look for so we can avoid confrontation. It could be as simple as knowing to leave your cat alone before they swat and scratch you, or it could be more serious as knowing when your dog is about to attack another dog. Pay very close attention to these subtle signs and your pets reactions to learn what they are feeling. Of course, these are not full proof and some pets attack without warning. Most of the time the pets give us some sort of sign, however short, of their discomfort or agitation before lashing out.