Decoding Dogspeak: How to Understand Dogs Better

August 05, 2019

Decoding Dogspeak: How to Understand Dogs Better


Most of us consider our dogs to be our best friend. Like any good best friend, we would want to be able to communicate with our dogs better.  The problem is, we obviously don’t speak the same language. If only things were simpler, we would use some sort of Rosetta stone program for dogs. But it’s not the case.

Dogs being social creatures, have their own way of communicating among each other. It is a complicated system of communication composed of vocalizations, sign/body languages, and even scent cues. Their language is not only for communication, but for conflict resolution.

We always want the best for our four-legged friends. In order to do that, we must be able to understand what they are saying.


Connecting with Your Dog

Human and dog love


1. Observe their physical behavior.

Watch his movement. You can tell a lot about the dog’s mood through the way he walks. He is being a bit aggressive if he approaches you in a straight line. He is being friendly if he walks to you in a zigzag manner. Do take note on where he is standing or moving. If your dog is near his food bowl, he is trying to tell you he is hungry. Your dog standing by the door? He wants to go out or go for a walk.

2. Listen to the way he barks.

A dog uses his bark to convey a myriad of messages. It is his voice. A frantic bark means there is a problem. He could also be trying to alert his companions. He is feeling lonely and seeking someone if he barks at prolonged intervals. They also use barks to tell you they are in pain or in an uncomfortable situation. A series of yelps could signal he is hurt or his leash is twisted in a way that prevented him to move.

3. Watch how he wags his tail.

You can tell how your dog is feeling through how he wags his tail. Wagging usually indicates he is happy. But it is also important to take note how high or low his tail is. He is likely excited if he holds his tail high while wagging. Your dog is feeling submissive, worried, or worse, feeling ill if he wags his tail lower.

4. Try to understand destructive behavior.

You come home and your favorite pair of shoes has been reduced to ribbons. Is this situation all too familiar? The dog tornado has struck, and not even your bags were spared. Humans naturally respond to this sort of behavior with anger. Instead of barking at him, why not try to understand why he did what he did. Maybe he is telling you he needs his own things, so buy him toys. Or he maybe, he is telling you to be more attentive to him. It is not fun to be alone in the house most of the time.

5. Gaze into his eyes.

    A dog’s eyes convey a lot of his emotions. He also uses it to express his attention. Your dog is relaxed if his eyes are in their normal size and shape. Their eyes look bigger than normal when they are tensed. An aggressive outburst is coming if he doesn’t hold your gaze while you are looking at him. This happens when he is defending his toy or guarding his favorite spot.

    Be careful of how your stare at him as staring is perceived as confrontational and threatening. Look at him with deep, loving affection instead, and it will be never misinterpreted.

    6. Be mindful of his needs.

      Just like people, your dog has both physical and emotional needs. We all know dogs are protective of their humans. He would demonstrate that by sitting near your foot, or barking at guests or unfamiliar people. He wants you to notice if something is off about him. If he is feeling ill, he most likely won’t be eating much and wants you to take him to the vet.

      7. Be mindful of your emotions.

        Dogs are very good at reading human moods. They can even respond to them or mirror them. Has it happened to you that when you are sad, your dogs seem to feel it too and get sad themselves? Or when you are happy and you smile at them, they seem to smile back? Oh he knows when his human is happy.

        8. Acknowledge his feelings.

          Yes, they have feelings. Being a sentient being, he can display a wide range of emotions. They can be happy, ashamed, sad, or jealous. His emotions are real, so treat him kindly and gently.

          9. Follow a schedule.

            Dogs are big fan of routines. It makes them feel safe and secure when you are reliable in your actions. Feed them at a certain time and stick to it. Have a regular walking schedule.

            10. Communicate with your dog effectively.

            You can do this by not giving your dog mixed signals. Follow a pattern of consistency. Be consistent in rewarding good behavior, say give him a treat. In the same breath, don’t vary when punishment is needed for bad behavior. Dogs remember and don’t forget easily so consistency is the key.


            Reading Dog Body Language

            Dalmatian and owner kissing

            We are often unaware that our dogs are tuning in to our body language and communicating a lot through their body postures. A fluent dialogue between man and dog is possible depending on how we handle our posture and recognition of our dog’s body language.

            1. Tail

            ✔ Dog wagging is lowered tail
            If he is wagging it slowly, it means he is confused and doesn’t know what is going on. He wants you to tell him what to do. Rapid wagging of a lowered tail means you are in charge, human.

            ✔ Raised tail and wagging slightly
            This means he considers himself to be in charge of the situation and trying to challenge your authority.

            ✔ Tail tucked between the legs
            When your dog does this, it means he is uncomfortable, scared, or afraid or anticipating pain. You can also see this after you scold your dog after being naughty.


            2. Eyes

            ✔ Wide alert and open
            He does this to get your attention. He is trying to challenge you, and you should respond firmly.

            ✔ Squinting and blinking eyes
            Your dog is in a playful mood when he does this. But if he often squints or blinks, his eyes might be painful. Take your pet to the vet when this happens.


            3. Ears

            ✔ Ears inclined forward or standing straight
            When his ears are like this, there is something new going on in his environment and he is curious about it.

            ✔ Flattened ears against the head
            Your dog is afraid when he does this. Sometimes, only one ear is flattened (usually the left ear). This is his reaction to unfamiliar people too, or people he is scared of.


            4. Face

            ✔ Dog yawning
            No, this doesn’t mean he is bored with you. If he yawns after you do, it means he is very attached to you. Yawning also means grumpiness and nervousness. Puppies react this way when around big unfamiliar dogs.

            ✔ Dog licking his face
            This means he is sensing danger, feeling stressed or pressure.

            ✔ Teeth exposure minus the snarling
            Your dog is being territorial when he does this. This behavior is often seen when he is eating.


            5. Stance 

            ✔ Dog rolling over and exposing belly
            He trusts you and wants to please you when he does this. If you rub his belly, you’re showing that you are pleased with his behavior.

            ✔ Dog putting his head on your knee
            He is being needy and trying to get your attention with this behavior. Your dog touching your hand with his nose means he wants you to pet him.

            ✔ Dog putting his paw on your knee
            He is trying to dominate you if he does this with a smug look. As suggested by trainers, look into his eyes when removing his paw.

            ✔ Dog with one front paw raised
            Your dog does this when wants something from you—he is probably hungry or wants to play. For hunting breeds, this usually means they see something interesting.

            ✔ Dog turning his back
            He doesn’t hate you when he does this. It actually means he trusts you.

            ✔ Dog shakes
            This is his way of relieving tension. Liken it to when they are trying to shake off excess water after a bath.


            6. Habits

            ✔ Dogs peeing in certain spots
            His peeing decisions is also the same as his pooping decisions: marking his territory. He wants other dogs to know that this is his spot so scoot. It’s called scent marking.

            ✔ Dog hostility against certain people
            Dogs’ sense of smell is way better compared to humans. They can even tell if their human has been around other dogs. They can detect any subtle chemical changes, like fear. If your dog is hostile to a certain person, he is most likely holding a grudge. It could be he has witnessed this certain person being unkind of his human.



            The key to any lasting relationship, in this case, between dog and human, is respect and mutual understanding. Remember, dogs are just like people. They have personalities that are unique to them. Understanding what your dog is trying to tell you can give you a lot of information which can help you respond to him, and help mold him into a better four-legged companion.

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