Dog body language and my photography

As a pet photographer, my clients can’t speak to me, well not in English anyway. (well their owners usually can). This means I need to be mindful to look for other cues the animals I work with may give me. In this instance lets focus on dogs. As a dog trainer also I suppose I am lucky that reading dogs body language comes naturally to me so it is almost as if they can speak. But, for those that maybe are not so fluent in dog, lets find out a bit more.

dog body language

So what is dog body language?

Unlike humans alot of the dogs communication is non verbal and they communicate a great deal with humans and other animals using body language. Unfortunately alot of the time humans are pretty bad at reading their dogs and miss alot of cues.

What are the main types of body language dogs display?

  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Mouth
  • Tail
  • Posture

These are the main body parts that a dog uses to communicate with its world.


Lets start with the eyes. The eyes are known as the windows to the soul and with dogs this is definitely true. You can tell a lot about how a dog is feeling by their eyes. Are they fixed and staring? This could be an indication that they have spotted a threat or prey at a distance and are getting ready to move.

Alternatively if the dog has a locked stare on you, this could mean the dog sees you as a threat and if you come too close will either run away or right. It is not always the case but bare this in mind, especially if it is not your dog. An indicator that people often misinterpret is what is known as “whale eyes”. This is when the dog shows the whites of it’s eyes. You often see it in dogs that are enduring an overly tight cuddle from an enthusiastic child. When dogs who are displaying whale eyes are ignored they often up the behaviour to growling or biting. Look out for this one.

Whale eye in dogs


The ears are great indicators of the mood of a dog. Pricked ears show the dog is alert and interested, equally a dog will usually have relaxed ears when taking some down time. A dogs ears may go back if if they are worried or anxious, however extreme excitement can also make dogs ears go back. It goes back to knowing the dog in front of you. This is why as a photographer I try to collect as much information from the owners before getting started.


Everyone knows the obvious cues dogs give with their mouths, like snarling and baring their teeth. A dog doing this is likely to be scared and or aggressive. Do not approach a do doing this, especially if they are cornered. So what are the more subtle things a dog does with its mouth to communicate? Yawning is a give away that a dog is stressed about what is going on and is trying to calm itself. That isn’t say dogs don’t yawn just like humans do and it’s even been proved they can catch yawns like we do. Dogs will also lick their lips and nose if they are feeling anxious or worried.


A dogs tail gives us some obvious cues, such as wagging when excited and happy. A dog may hold its tail stiff and upright when it is aroused, this often happens when dogs meet new dogs. When a tail is held rigid and over the dogs back this may be a sign of dominance and aggression and conversely a dog that tucks its tail under its body may be fearful or anxious.

dog body language and photography


A dogs posture is often much easier to read as it is similar to humans in a way. Stiff and upright would mean the dog is aroused and possibly displaying dominance or aggression. Equally a dog that is unsure about a situation may slink to the floor and stay low avoiding eye contact.

These are just a few brief cues that dogs offer us that we can look out for.

Dog body language and photography

As a dog photographer it is important for me to be aware of all these different body language cues dogs display as I rarely know the dogs I am working with. At least having an understanding of body language gives me an insight into what the dog is experiencing.

If I see a dog is getting anxious or worried about a certain shot, I can try something else or find a way to make it more fun for the dog.

Pet photoshoot

Anyone can call themselves a pet or animal photographer but I believe having the extra training with not only dogs but horses as well makes me understand my subjects better and in turn get the best out of them.

Around the circle

I am part of an amazing group of pet photographers from around the globe that participate in this weekly blog circle. Simply click on the link and go on a journey from blog post to blog post until you end up back here.

Next up is Elaine Tweedy of I got the shot photography.

Elaine Tweedy gives you a look at why body language is super important when dealing with deaf dogs.


Dog walk photoshoot at Felixstowe Ferry

I am blessed to have a number of different places I can take clients and their dogs for a dog walk photoshoot.

I was yet to complete one at Felixstowe Ferry as I hadn’t really thought about it as a great place for photographs. My client suggested that we go for a walk and shoot there as it’s somewhere she frequently takes her gorgeous dog Buddy.

Cockerpoo portrait on dog walk

A little bit of back ground about Felixstowe Ferry

Felixstowe Ferry is an ancient small fishing hamlet north east of the main town of Felixstowe with some buildings dating back to 1043. Felixstowe Ferry is located on the coast at the estuary of the river Deben. Also, it is well known for its fresh fish stall, that is stocked daily with local produce.

Along with the fresh fish stall there is also the Ferry Boat Inn which is a lovely old pub which offers tasty food and drink with a dog friendly bar area and garden. The Ferry Boat Inn

Felixstowe ferry wreck
The old wreck

In addition to the FBI, for a quick bite and a cuppa there is also the retro Ferry Cafe.

There is a foot ferry which crosses to Bawdsey which is in use between April and October. More information about the ferry can be found here.

Above all, there are some lovely walks that start at the Ferry and use the Sea Walls giving excellent views over the River, saltings, farmland and of course the Sea and Golf Course. Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club is one of the oldest in the Country. It guards the road leading to the Ferry which winds it’s way through the links.

Dog walk routes

cockerpoo photoshoot
Lots of opportunities for posing

You can take a lovely circular route along the beach, river wall and the marshes which is approximately 2.6 miles. However, you can also walk a longer route north through the Felixstowe marshes. These walks are not suitable for dogs to be off the lead if they like to roam. As there are lots of birds in the marshes and an extremely strong sea current which could be dangerous. That aside, they are beautiful walks to enjoy with your dogs.

dog walk map
Easy circular route

Little Buddy was recovering from an illness so we couldn’t walk too far so took a stroll along the river wall and back.

There are lots of benches to take a break on and take in the view and strike a pose on of course.

Owner and dog photoshoot dog walk
My strange noises make dogs and owners alike smile
Pirate dog

However, despite not being let of his lead Buddy had a whale of a time and enjoyed his fun walk with the crazy camera lady.

Running dog walk


Around the circle

I am part of an amazing group of pet photographers from around the globe that participate in this weekly blog circle. Simply click on the link and go on a journey from blog post to blog post until you end up back here.

Next in the circle is Ina Jalil.

Ina Jalil of Ina J Photography goes to Commonwealth Park in Canberra for her Tails of Canberra pet photography session