Dog Body Language

Is it important in a Kennel?
You Bet it is!

Have you ever heard anyone one say, “That dog is red” or "Wow! That dog is really green!” or “That yellow dog just turned red”?

These colors have nothing to do with a dog’s coat. They are terms to define the dog’s body language and how that translates to the dog’s state of mind.

Green dogs equal “go” – you can approach these friendly dogs. Yellow dogs equal “caution” – these dogs may be fearful or stressed. Red dogs equal “stop” – these dogs may be reactive.
Green defines a dog that is friendly and social. This dog is relaxed. It may get up, stretch and readily come towards you and/or the front of the enclosure or yard. If excited, it is likely wagging its tail in a fast back and forth and extended manner. The dog has its head up, ears forward, mouth slightly open, and a glimmer in its eyes. Green dogs’ feet may be dancing up and down or they might be jumping if behind a gate or fence. This dog’s eyes will be focused on the object of their desires as if to say “please pet me!” or “come over here.” If you have toys in the enclosure, they may bring one to you. They might display a play bow, which is their way of asking you or another dog to play. 

A green dog will take a treat from a human, including strangers. Green dogs are often easy to train. Take advantage of that biddability to teach basic manners, such as sitting to be petted. Some green dogs will flip on their backs to ask for a tummy rub. This can be confusing as this behavior also can be associated with the less social yellow and red dogs when it is usually accompanied with submission and/or fear urination. Look at the whole dog and the situation to help determine what that dog’s body language is saying.
Yellow dogs are shy, wary and unsure. These dogs are likely to be at the back of the enclosure or behind other dogs in the enclosure. Often, these dogs will use the other dogs to block their contact with people. Most times they will have their tails tucked between their hind legs. The tails might be moving slowly and hesitantly.

These dogs’ heads are below back level, and eyes are diverted. Yellow dogs may not accept a treat or will stretch their heads as far as they can to take a treat while keeping their feet and body as far back as possible. Yellow dogs may bark when people approach because they are frightened, not because they are excited to see them like a green dog.

Stress Signals - A yellow dog or even a green dog who is unsure of something new may exhibit stress signals, which are behaviors to relieve stress by seeming disinterested. Stress signals include yawning, lip and nose licking, shaking and sniffing. These behaviors are ways for dogs to avoid contact or confrontation with people and dogs. Sometimes you will see the dog that turns its head away or lifts a front paw. These are signs of respect and peace.
Red dogs are very fearful of people, other dogs, noises and/or new situations. Often you will not see the red dog. If you are in the kennel, they are outside the kennel. If you are outside, they will be inside the kennel. They will go to extreme lengths to avoid human contact. 

If the red dog is in an enclosure and cannot flee when approached, the dog may lie down as far away as possible and give a “whale eye,” not making direct eye contact and looking out the corner of its eye. The eyes are often dilated and can be protruding or bulging with fear. 

In extreme cases, the dog will not even look at the observer and may be frozen in fear. If a yellow or red dog is backed into a corner, it may turn its back to you, but use caution as you approach, especially if you are not familiar with the dog. These dogs may be frozen in fear and not move or may attack. Be careful; do not get bitten.
Know your dogs, know their individual personalities and quirks, and control the future of your kennel. You will enjoy your kennel more, and you will catch the moment a dog is not feeling well or something is “off” or just not right in the kennel. 

Thanks to Lili Chin for the poster showing illustrations of red, green and yellow dog body language: 

Also thank you to Purdue University, Dr. Candace Croney and Traci Shriver for sharing their method of explaining and identifying red, green and yellow dogs.
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