Canine Communication: Understanding Your Dog
Every dog lover wishes they could talk to their best friend. Everyone wants the opportunity to ask their pet what’s wrong, to tell them what is and is not a threat (for example, burglars vs. mailmen), and of course, to vocalize how much we love them. Although humans and dogs aren’t on the same page when it comes to language, there are some clues that our pups give us that allow us some insight into their heads.
While every dog is unique, these universal traits have common meanings between all canines. Pay attention to when your dog is showing these behaviors, and you’ll be able to get a much better understanding of what Fido’s thinking right now.
Let’s start with the good stuff. A happy dog is a relaxed dog. When dogs are in a good mood and feel safe around you, they have no reason to be on edge. Your happy pup will have a relaxed facial expression and might look at you with squinting or blinking eyes. This squinty, tongue-out look is exactly the one we all love to post of our pups “smiling.” Dogs may not really be able to smile like humans, but this is the closest (and happiest) they get.
Does your dog seem to always be begging for belly rubs? Don’t be annoyed—it’s just because they love you. Flipping on their back and exposing their stomach for a belly rub means that they trust you and feel safe in that vulnerable position around you. If they consider you trustworthy enough to be asked for a belly rub, then consider it an honor, even if it feels demanding.
We tend to think that a wagging tail is the tell-tale sign of a happy dog, but this isn’t always true. A wagging tail can tell other dogs—and try to tell us—a lot more.
It’s can be a big, scary world out there for dogs. A scared or anxious dog not only means that your dog is having a bad time—it also means that, if pushed further, they may act defensively in a situation that’s perceived to be threatening. This is when it’s important to know the difference between a good and bad tail wag.
If your dog is leaning forward, clenching their jaw, and snapping at the air, this means they feel threatened and want whoever or whatever is making them nervous to stay away.
Another often misinterpreted sign is yawning. Yawning, in a peaceful place like in their doghouse or on your lap after a long day can signify being tired, just like with humans. However, when in a stressful situation, a dog’s yawn is usually their attempt to relieve some of the tension that they feel. If your dog is in a new situation like meeting a new, energetic child or going to a groomer for the first time, don’t overlook something as seemingly innocent as a yawn. They’re probably trying to tell you that they’re anxious and unsure of their surroundings or what’s going on.
How a dog vocalizes is a big clue to help figure out how they’re feeling. Your dog’s bark can be a lot more nuanced and meaningful than you think, even if he’s just barking at the neighbors for the tenth time today.
Low growls are an obvious sign that your dog feels uncomfortable or upset. When a dog uses a low pitch tone, they’re trying to signify that they may result to aggression. Low growls tell other dogs to stay away and out of your dog’s territory or personal space. On the other end, a higher-pitched tone means that a dog would love for you to come closer. The two tones are easy to differentiate when dogs interact: a growl means to back off, while a high-pitched bark means it’s playtime.
How long a dog holds out a sound is also an intentional choice they make with their vocalization. That’s why you probably won’t hear a brief growl: the longer the sound is, the more serious they are and the longer-lasting its implications are. If a dog is holding out a growl for an extended period of time, it would like for you to stay away for an extended period of time.
The language barrier between us and our pets is a pretty big one, but nothing is too big to stand between you and your furry friend. And when your dog is in a good mood and ready see the world, DOGIPOT® products make your dog park visit as easy and enjoyable as possible.