10 Ways Dogs Try to Communicate with Us

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Dogs use face and body language to communicate, just like humans. But since dogs have four legs and a tail, their body language is very different from ours. Taking the time to observe your dog's movements and actions can be hugely beneficial to you and your dog's happiness, allowing you to recognize stress or discomfort, and respond to potential problems before they get worse.

Here are 10 ways your dog might be trying to communicate with you:

Eye contact

Dogs communicate in subtle ways with their faces, specifically with their eyes. Constant eye contact from your dog is his way of showing his trust and affection towards you. Think of it as an understated 'I love you.' Avoiding eye contact, on the other hand, is a sign that your dog is uncomfortable, scared, or cowering after doing something naughty.

Tail posture

Perhaps the most widely recognizable ways dogs communicate is with their tails. In addition to the joyful wagging tail, a dog's tail can communicate a range of other emotions. For example, a slow wagging means your dog is feeling cautious, and a stiff tail held high means your dog is on alert. A low tail means your pup is feeling content, but a tucked tail means he is feeling scared. If your dog is wagging his tail vigorously enough to make his butt to wiggle (we all know what I'm talking about), he's elated to see you!

Tongue flicking

Tongue flicks are often driven by anxiety and a desire to appease the owner or avoid conflict, but they don't mean your dog knows he's been "naughty" and is sorry. Dogs can certainly read our body language and may get worried or anxious if we seem upset, but this is not the same thing as feeling guilty or understanding that they've done something wrong.

Sneezing and yawning

Dogs sometimes try to communicate with us by sneezing and yawning unnecessarily. A misplaced sneeze or yawn means that your dog is uncomfortable and stressed, often around new pets or people. Believe it or not, humans do this when they feel uncomfortable too! This can get confusing because dogs also yawn when they are feeling content around you. The key is to look for misplaced yawning in unfamiliar circumstances.

Belly exposure

In addition to face and tail movement, dogs also try to communicate using the rest of their body. If your pup rolls over and bares his belly to you, he is initiating this gesture to appease you (but a belly rub is always welcome!) Dogs also communicate with each other this way, rolling over as a sign of passive resistance to a perceived threat.

Play bowing

If your dog faces you and dives into a bow with his front legs on the ground and his butt in the air, this is known as the play bow and it's your dog's way of telling you that it is playtime. If you want to make your dog's day, try play bowing back at him! Your basic downward dog yoga pose will do the trick, and your pup will be grateful that you're trying to speak his language.

Raising a paw

Dogs communicate that they want attention by raising a paw and touching you. You probably see this most often when you're sitting and your dog approaches you to put a paw on your knee. In puppies, this is communicated by pawing the air repeatedly.

Freezing

Have you ever approached your dog with a bone and noticed the way he suddenly freezes mid-chew upon noticing you? Freezing in the middle of an action is a clear way dogs communicate that they are feeling uncertain and want to be left alone. If your dog freezes mid-chew, or in the middle of another action, it's best to honor his wishes and give him some space.

Bringing things to you

Every once in a while your dog might bring you a ball, stick, or other toy. Most people read this as an invitation to play, which it very well might be. But if your dog brings you one of his favorite toys and drops it at your feet, it's more likely that he is giving it to you as a gift! This is your pup's way of showing affection for you by sharing his favorite things with you.

Leaning against you

Last but not least, if your dog is leaning against you, this is your dog's way of trying to cuddle with you. Unfortunately, he physically can't hug you, so cuddling against you is the best way to show affection for his favorite human!

While these methods of communication are the most common among all breeds, it's important to remember that every dog is different. To maximize you and your dog's happiness, the best thing you can do is observe your pup's habits, movements, and mannerisms so that you can begin to understand the ways your dog specifically communicates with you. That is, of course, unless you learn to speak dog.

Written by PetCoach Editorial September 12, 2018
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