In this blog about dog body language, I want to talk about the mouth, more specifically tongue flicks.


What are tongue flicks?

The mouth is something we often connect with a dog barking, but dogs also do a lot of silent signals with the mouth. It can be through yawning, licking or moving the lips. One of the more silent signals is what we humans have named tongue flicks.

Tongue flicks is when the tongue literally flips rapidly in and out of the dogs mouth. The behaviour can be done once or be repeated.

The many meanings of tongue flicks

Tongue flicks can have many different meanings, and as always it is important to look at the full body of the dog to look at all the signals the dog is using in his/her communication, as well as the environment the dog is in and the stimuli surrounding the dog in order to be able to make an estimated guess as to what the dog is trying to communicate.


Tongue flicks are most often seen when the dog is uncomfortable and does not feel safe. They can appear as a warning before the dog resorts to showing their teeth or even potentially biting. In these scenarios the tongue flick is often seen together with backwards pointed ears, a tense body and a stiff gaze. The tongue flick also happens more rapidly.

Tongue flicks can also be seen if the dog is feeling stressed, and is here used more as a way of calming themselves or the situation down. Here the tongue flick is more an appeasement signal towards the oncoming stimuli (Read more about appeasement here).


However, tongue flicks can also be seen in greeting rituals both towards humans and other dogs. Some dogs will also flick their tongue when being scratched in their favourite place.

Tongue flicks is a signal that can be used both in positive and negative scenarios which enhance the importance of not only looking at one signal but the entire dog, the environment and the stimuli around the dog.

If you are interested in learning more about dog body language, then go check out Life with a Dog’s Dog Body Language Library.

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