I figured I'd make this it's own topic, so more folks might see it...
1) Head Turn: the head turns when a dog encounters another dog, person, or object that makes them unsure. It could be momentary, or they could keep the head turned for a long time. Some people call it “avoidance”.
This can happen if a dog is approaching head on with excitement, if your dog wants you to approach more calmly, or if they are uncomfortable with a camera, vacume, or child. You can also use it to tell an excited puppy to chill out, or a growling dog that he can relax about you.
2) Soften the eyes: there is a difference between a stare and a gaze. A stare is direct, hard, and penetrating. In a soft gaze, the eyelids are lower, the eye contact is not intense. If kneeling down and looking directly into a dog’s eyes makes them turn away, growl, or cower, stand up and look down at
them: it lowers your lids and is soft.
3) Turn away: this is a stronger signal than just turning the head. If a dog is growling, perhaps if the play is either too rough or unwanted, a dog will turn to the side or even show it’s back.
Older dogs will use it to “ward off” a playful puppy, and it is a common method of stopping a puppy’s play nips or jumps.
4) Licking the nose: a nervous dog will lick their nose, trying to calm themselves or someone else down. You can use this to quiet your dog if they are looking at you. It is often used with other signals too, like turning the head or body. I see this alot at the vet.
5) Bowing: some dogs, particularly puppies will play bow, lowering their front end and stretching out their front legs as an invitation to play. If they hold the stance, though, they are trying to say that they are friendly and submissive, intending no harm to a nervous dog.
6) Sitting or slowing: sometimes a dog will sit when another approaches, or if they are reacting to the anger or fear in your voice. Sitting is a relaxed position, and if you need to reassure a timid dog, or quiet a puppy, sit down. You can sit and turn away too for a stronger effect.
The “great slow down” when you want them to do something is also a sign of stress. If your dog is going slower when you want them to go faster, it may be they are unsure of your excitement. If they sit on command but take their sweet time doing it, they may be reacting to too much excitability in you.
7) Laying down: this is a far stronger signal that sitting, and is often used by higher status dogs to calm the “pack”. When a puppy is tired of play, they will go lay down as a signal to let them rest. An older dog will lay down and ignore a puppy if they don’t want to play.
If your dog lays down when you want them to come or do something, they are trying to tell you to be calmer about it. You may be yelling, irritated, or otherwise too excited. Timid dogs will also “shut down” like this if you are angry, standing over them, or they are frightened of something.
Yawning: yawning is a universal symbol of being very relaxed! We humans use it to. But dogs use it to say “enough” to playful youngsters, and “chill out” to excited humans. We can use it the same way, yawning to settle a puppy, to relax a nervous dog, or counter agressiveness. Yawning is easily used with turning away or sitting down.
9) Sniffing : if a dog approaches and yours starts sniffing the ground or the air, they are telling the other dog to approach more politely and calmly. The same if you are irritated that the dog doesn’t come or sit–they want you to ask in a more relaxed manner.
10) Curving approach: a head on approach is rude in the doggie world, and you will often see dogs making a wide arc before coming to sniff noses. This is a calm and polite approach, even if you are just walking past a dog who is licking, sniffing, or showing uncertainty.
11) Splitting up: when the play gets too rough, the encounter too tense, another dog will physically stand between the two, often with head turning, sniffing, yawning or other strong signal.
12) Tail wagging: this requires close observation on our part because some tail wagging is happy, some is tense, and some is a sign to relax. The “looking guilty” wag with a low body and crawling isn’t a “guilty” look, it is actually the dog trying to calm you down because your upset.
A pair of dogs with their tails up and wagging, stiff legged and face to face is a fight about to happen. A puppy about to be “pounced” on and played with will often wag the tip of their tail as a sign of not being sure of your actions.
13) Less commonly used signals: blinking, lifting a paw, licking faces, and crawling are also signs of a dog trying to calm stress in himself or his environment. They are often used with other signals, and some dogs will use them more than others. Each dog is different and will use whatever body language he has learned or comes naturally.
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo
"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw