Your dog has a few body language signals that indicates they may be feeling uneasy or somewhat stressed. One of the signals is when your dog licks its nose, a rather quick motion – just a flick of the tongue.  I’m not talking about when your dog has just eaten something and is cleaning its mouth.  As a sign of how your dog is feeling, it happens when there is nothing around that your dog may have eaten. This licking also serves as a self-calming action, or used to calm others and so in addition to hinting at your pet’s mood, its called a calming signal.


This dog looks a bit anxious.
This dog looks a bit anxious.


Only the nose lick indicates the dog may be needing to calm itself.
Only the nose lick indicates the dog may be needing to calm itself.


You and I may have similar calming actions. When I feel anxious about things, while sitting down, I tend to rock back and forth a bit. Do you do something in particular like tapping your leg or foot?

Another calming sign is when your dog yawns when there is no reason for them to be tired.


Start watching for these signals and pay attention to when they happen. Commonly your dog may yawn during a visit at the Vet’s office, or the groomers or may be a response to something you or other people are doing that makes your dog uncomfortable. When I go over to Rosy, my dog, and start lavishing kisses on her head and muzzle, if she starts licking her nose and yawning, I realize I’m making her nervous and get my head out of her face so she can feel comfortable again and be receptive to me being close to her.

 Your cat communicates its feelings as well.  The whiskers and ears can indicate its mood.

This cat’s ears –  sitting high on its head and the whiskers hanging loosely, somewhat downward on both sides of its face, not very fanned out, are showing a relaxed cat.



When they are facing more forward and somewhat spread out it usually indicates that your cat is alert and ready to play or hunt.

Here, is an ear position called “airplane ears” – sticking out horizontally like airplane wings. This may mean that your cat is feeling agitated or irritated and could become aggressive if pushed.

“Airplane ears” position

One caveat, when reading your pet’s body language, you don’t want to interpret your cat’s mood by just one thing. Take all of its body language into consideration along with the immediate situation your cat is in. Your cat can also display airplane ears in one or both ears if your cat has an ear infections, ear mites or other ear discomfort.


This cat is feeling frightened or getting ready to fight. Note its whiskers which are flattened back against the face tightly spaced.

When the cat’s ears are tightly clenched, flattened against the head, it can mean your cat is ready to go on the offensive or aggressively defend itself.  Even if nothing happens,  these ears tell you don’t touch me right now.

Very scared cat. Do not touch me!
Very scared cat. Do not touch me!

You can hear more details about these cat and dog signals in the Raising Your Paws podcast episode 4.

Resources For The Podcast, Episode 4 – Show Title: Why Your Dog Loves Playing Tug & Another Need-to-Know Truth About Cats. 

Link to Jean Donaldson’s website:

How to order Jean Donaldson’s book The Culture Clash:

Pam Johnson-Bennett’s Website:

How to order Pam Johnson-Bennett’s book, Cat Wise.

See the new NutriSource canned cat food flavors that will be coming out soon.