One of the most frightening and potentially life-threatening events someone in your family might face is being bitten by a dog. Many dog bites in Las Vegas are the result of a dog the victim knew; often, it was the family dog, and children are among the most vulnerable victims of dog attacks. Understanding the body language that dogs express may go a long way toward keeping you or one of your loved ones from being bitten.

According to Web MD, dogs have a complicated system of facial and body language. However, you can learn to recognize the signals your dog is sending you. The easiest ways to interpret a dog’s moods and intentions are through his eyes, ears, mouth, tail and body stance. For example, if your dog is happy, his eyes and ears may appear relaxed. He might be looking at you, but should not be staring rigidly in your direction. His tail may be wagging gently or, if he is especially thrilled to see you, in a wild and circular motion. He might also wiggle his entire body. His mouth could be closed or open in a way that suggests a smile, sometimes with the tongue comically hanging out.

When dogs are frightened, angry or in pain, their body language is different. It is important you recognize these signs to avoid a bite. Wide, staring eyes with the whites showing may signal aggression. Your dog may be squinting if he does not feel good, and he may make his eyes smaller if he is afraid or under stress. If his teeth are showing, with the muzzle wrinkled, this is a clear sign that you may get bitten if you get too close. He may hide his tail between his legs if he is frightened, or hold it rigid with a slight wag to appear threatening. Stiff, upright hair on the ruff of the neck and a tense posture also signal a dog that should be approached with care or left alone.

With time, you should learn to accurately interpret your dog’s body language. It is important to teach this to your children also, as well as the proper ways to interact and play with dogs.