Which resources are available to learn how to read the body language of dogs in particular, and other animals than humans in general?


Forester-Owen and van der Linden, in a 2023 article titled "Noisy technology, anxious dogs: can technology support caregiving in the home?", mention that 60% of surveyed humans missed the "aggressive" component in the body language of dogs. It is particularly sad, because when a human misread an aggressive dogs, they get bitten, but that's the dog which often ends up euthanized, for an error from the human... :(


Teaching how to read the human body language to humans who did not "pick it up" on their own is already complicated. Teaching how to read the body language of dogs (or of other species) to people who do not spend a lot of time with them (which would have allowed them to "pick it up" on their own), but need to be able to read their body language when they meet them in the street or when they adopt one, is even more complex, and learning such skills from books is not "cutting it".


I would like to design, implement and validate an application to evaluate and improve the ability of humans to read and interpret the body language of dogs (and of other animals, in the longer term, but starting with dogs) so that they would suck less at it in real life.

A first prototype would be a simple interactive pedagogical interactive web page to train humans in reading the emotions exhibited in drawings first, then pictures, and then maybe in videos. I think that students of my computer science department will find the topic interesting for their graduating project, and would be able to program such a web application in a few weeks (leaving ample room for two to three validation and improvement cycles).


  • Pointers to such solutions if they exist, either to decide not to create our own because it is already perfect, or to take its design in consideration and improve upon it (I could not find one, but I am wondering if I used the correct keywords); and
  • Finding open source material, textual (e.g. list of the most important emotions to recognize, from an expert in animal behavior) and multimedia (e.g. drawings, pictures and videos of animals exhibiting each emotion).

I searched for some existing solutions in order to avoid "reinventing the wheel" (and most probably an inferior type of wheel, if some people already put some thought in it) but could not find any, and I am wondering if I am using the wrong keywords...

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    I honestly don't understand what your goal is here. You want to learn the body language of dogs, that's what your title says. But then you want to create an app? That is supposed to "evaluate and improve the ability of humans to read and interpret the body language of dogs"? How is that supposed to work? And dog body language is not as simple as you might think. A wagging tail for example can indicate joy as well as nervousness. I'd really like to understand your goal better before trying to answer this.
    – Elmy
    Jun 30, 2023 at 20:50
  • I have been interacting and training dogs for (more than) 15 years. I believe that I am good at reading dog's body language, but I am not sure I would be able to teach it to people. I am curious about existing resources for other people to learn how to read such body language, before designing my own, so that I can attempt to improve upon existing solutions rather than reinventing a (potentially inferior) wheel. This is, as you wrote, a difficult problem, but people must learn to detect aggressiveness at least!
    – J..y B..y
    Jun 30, 2023 at 21:20
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    If the goal is to develop an app to read "animals" body language, you're probably gonna be out of luck. Every species is different with their own highly complex forms of communication that are unique or mostly unique to them and there are like 1000s of animals that we as humans think about when thinking "animals" (mainly mammals and birds). I would focus your question down to just dogs, there are probably a plethora of resources on just dogs (a single species), and enough to actually get a comprehensive understanding of their methods of communication
    – user25771
    Jun 30, 2023 at 21:22
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    making a book or an app to teach animal behaviour is a good idea but it is a big task and you will need help in collecting information,i suggest you focus on only dogs or on only cats. Jul 1, 2023 at 4:22
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    I understand your question. I am a programmer too and would first focus onto dogs. Later you can use your basic programm, change the pictures/videos/database and enlarge it to other animals too. So your data search follows two aims: you want to find enough resources (as clear as possible, to teach unexperienced people) and second you want to have a look into the "state of the art" to prevent doing again, what others already did. Did I understand this right? Jul 1, 2023 at 8:04

1 Answer 1


This answer is entirely based on my personal opinion.

Any still image of a dog to teach someone about their body language is absolutely useless and drawings of dogs even more so. That's why all books and animation-style videos that try to teach dog language fail.

The body language of dogs is a dynamic one. Many emotions or intentions are conveyed by either minuscule facial movements or the movement of the whole body or sometimes the time between certain movements. So I'm convinced that you can only reach your goal with videos of real dogs displaying real emotions.

Just to give you an example: imagine the picture of a dog with its ears laying flat against the skull. Is this dog aggressive? Or maybe afraid? It's hard to say without knowing whether the dog is growling or licking its lips or ducking away... There's too much information missing.

There are several good videos about dog body language available on YouTube. My personal selection can be found in this answer to a different question (I don't want to repeat the same list over and over again). Please be aware that these videos are copyrighted and the property of their makers and you do not have the right to use them in your app just because they are publicly available on YouTube. If you want to use any of the listed content, you need to contact the owners and ask permission

And lastly you should look into the topic of gamification to give your app a chance of succeeding. Learning stuff is boring, but getting points for learning stuff makes it appealing and comparing your score with those of other people gives you more incentive to learn...

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    Thanks for your answer and for the link! I know and agree about gamification. Also, I am aware of the difference in potential learning between drawings, pictures and video, but do believe that one (humans and other animals than humans) learns an approximation of a concept or skill (e.g. with drawings) and further refines the learning (e.g. with pictures, sound and then videos): the drawings draw the attention to key features, the videos help bridging the theory behind the drawings with the diversity of reality.
    – J..y B..y
    Jul 3, 2023 at 10:34

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