Dog to human communication: How dogs communicate

Do you understand what your dog is trying to tell you?
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Dog to human communication How do dogs communicate with us

They don’t speak human, but dogs communicate with us using body language just like they would do with another dog. Some are well known and easy to spot. Others aren’t, and are often misinterpreted.

All dog owners should be aware of their dogs’ sensitivities, and should make every effort to learn how to read their actions and body language.

How dogs communicate with us

Why does my dog lick their nose?

Dogs lick their nose when they feel anxious or distressed, or when they feel under too much pressure from their owner or their surroundings. Not every nose lick is a signal of distress. They may just be tasting the leftovers from their last snack.

Why does my dog yawn so much?

Yawning is often a sign dogs use to ease tension if they are feeling anxious or worried, or if play is getting out of hand. Yawns can be positive or negative. For example the anticipation of fun may cause your dog to yawn.

Why does my dog turn its head away when I hug it?

Not all dogs like hugs, and handling can lead to anxiety, stress and fear. When dogs are held and dragged in for a hug it may overwhelm them. They demonstrate this by moving their head away in an act of avoidance.

Dogs can communicate with their ears and eyes

If a dog avoids making any eye contact with you, they may be doing it because they are uncomfortable and want to show submission. 

If a dog is on high alert, they often show the whites of their eyes and want a little space.  

Droopy ears communicate submission and ears pinned right back mean a dog is probably feeling uncomfortable. Whereas if they are perked right up they are excited and focusing. If you’re trying to communicate with your dog, they will instinctively tilt their head to listen more intently. They aren’t doing it to be cute.

Dogs communicate with their tail

Dogs communicate with their tail to show more than just signs of happiness. A dog with a wagging tail might look to all of us that they are happy or excited, but it isn’t always the case. Always look for more body signals from a dog before approaching. 

  • A curled tail held in an upwards direction shows confidence
  • A straight tail indicates that a dog is locked onto something and is focusing intently
  • A tail held lower down, or tucked in shows fear and submission. But it still may be wagging furiously

Why does my dog always lick me?

It’s probably because you taste good, dogs LOVE to lick the salt off our faces. They also learn this behaviour at an early age. Puppies will affectionately lick their mothers mouth, so when they do it to you it is a way of communicating love and respect.

How do I know if my dog is feeling confident?

A confident and happy dog can be spotted a mile away. You’ll notice a relaxed body, an upward curving tail and a confident strut. Dogs often walk this way when they have something in their mouth that they are particularly proud to be carrying.

Building bonds

Take the time to learn how to understand your dog, and be a better more understanding owner.

Read more: Getting a dog? Tips for your search

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