Good communication and mutual understanding are the backbones of any successful relationship, but how the heck do you build a long-lasting and healthy relationship with your dog? If only we could channel our inner Dr. Dolittle and hear what they are thinking. Good news! We can’t listen to their thoughts, but they tell us a lot through their body language. Though this article we will answer the question: What is my dog feeling?
Body language comes with many nuances and can be tricky to read. As pet owners, consider the context when interpreting your pup’s behavior or actions. In general, your furry companion isn’t going to fake it or gloss over the truth. Dog’s tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves — erm… fur. You won’t need to bust out your decoder ring to decipher an “I’m fine” response from your canine friend. So what should you be looking for in your pup’s communication style?
10 common dog behaviors and what they mean
1) Dog Tail
It might surprise you to know that a wagging tail doesn’t always mean your doggo is happy! Many veterinarians agree that a waggy tail to the right means Fido is relaxed. But, if it’s wagging to the left, it could mean he’s anxious or feeling slightly aggressive.
Of course, a tail wag could just mean Fido is happy to see you. Especially if his rear end is up in the air (where do you think they got the “downward facing dog” name for that yoga pose?). If that’s your pup’s favorite pose, it means he’s ready to play!
Wagging isn’t the only way dogs communicate with their tails. If a dog’s tail is sticking straight up, it’s a sign of aggression or dominance. If it’s tucked between his legs, it means he’s scared. Watch for stress signals to see what might be giving him the spooks and try to remove him from the situation to help him calm down.
2) Pucker up!
Does your pup have obsessive licking disorder aimed at you or your face? If so, you can breathe easy: it means he likes you! When a dog licks his owner, he’s saying, “I’m happy,” or “I’m content.” So pucker up! Or you could give him a scratch behind the ears to return the sentiment if you’d rather avoid the dog-breath.
3) A case of the sniffles.
No, we’re not talking about the common cold. We’re talking about your canine companion’s proclivity to smell. All. The. Things. Don’t worry; it’s totally normal! And it doesn’t always mean he’s trying to sniff out the bacon you’ve got stashed in your pocket. It’s his way of figuring out his surroundings and establishing trust with people.
4) Yawning or droopy eyes.
It might be a no-brainer, but if your dog is yawning, chances are pretty high he’s ready for a snooze. Yawns don’t always mean tired, though, and this is an instance where considering the context is important. Yawning, especially repeated yawning, can also be a signal that your pup is nervous or anxious. If you’re in new surroundings or presented with a unique situation and see your dog yawning a lot, consider removing him from the situation. Take time to snuggle up and talk to him in calm tones to make sure he’s not feeling anxious.
5) Mouthing Off
Dogs use their mouths for a lot of reasons. This type of body language is another one to be sure you pay attention to the context, so your furry friend’s signals don’t get lost in translation.
- Nipping: This is like biting, but gentle and playful. Almost always is a sign that Fido is ready to have some fun with you!
- Chewing – A very common and even important behavior for dogs because it helps them relax. It’s essential to have some dog-safe chew toys around so your furry friend can relax when he needs to. However, if your dog is destroying things by chewing on them, it’s another story. He’s probably bored, lonely, or possibly even anxious. It’s a good idea to make sure he’s getting enough quality time with you each day, getting outside for exercise, and getting enough attention. If he’s still destroying things after you’ve tried those tactics, it might be time to invest in some obedience training.
- Biting/Barring Teeth – This is a pretty obvious sign of aggression. Check the surroundings, see what might be causing this behavior, and try to talk calmly to your pup and help him re-set if needed.
- Whining – While it’s typically frowned upon to give in to whining with human children, when Fido whines, it’s best to figure out why. After all, while you’d very much like for him to “use his words,” he just can’t. And if he does, you have bigger problems on your hands! If your dog is whining, he could be asking for food (when was the last time he ate?) or attention (has it been a while since you played?). It could also be a reaction to stress, so be sure to consider the situation to decode his whining cues.
- Obsessive licking/grooming – A dog’s gotta itch that scratch and keep himself clean, but dogs are certainly not as meticulous as their feline friends. So if you notice your little floof ball grooming or biting at himself repeatedly, especially in one particular area, it could be a sign that something hurts or is wrong. Investigate the area and if you notice any sores, rashes, or issues, be sure to visit the vet.
6) Ear Talk
Whether your dog has stand-up-straight-pointy ears or hang-down-low-droopy ears, they can say a lot about a dog’s emotions. Suppose they’re standing straight up when they usually don’t or are extra perky and forward-facing. In that case, Fido is probably curious about something. An adventure may be afoot! Grab your sleuthing gear and get ready for some fun! But also, it could just be a squirrel, so maybe don’t get too excited with your Sherlock Holmes hat.
Are his ears back or pressed down? This is a sign of fear or submission. And sometimes, it’s a sign that he’s eaten the entire box of crayons you left sitting on the counter, and he knows he’s not getting any chewy bones for a week.
7) Destructive Behavior
This is typically a sign of loneliness, boredom, or anxiousness and will often happen when you’re not around. If your dog is getting outside activity, quality playtime with you, adequate attention every day, and still tearing through the house like the Tazmanian Devil when you leave the house, you might want to consider crate training.
8) Road Block
Has your floofy boi ever sat on your feet? Or right between your feet while you’re standing at the stove? This is good news. It likely means you are the chosen one. When dogs sit on your feet or right between your legs, they’re showing signs of possessiveness. You are his human, and he’ll love you forever. And you’re not allowed to move from that spot until he’s good and ready. Bonus: he makes an excellent foot warmer. Also, if you think this is weird, you should check out these surprising behaviors – I bet you’ve even seen one or two in your pup!
9) The Potty Dance
This might be another no-brainer, but it’s important to remember that your doggo can’t just cross his legs and hold it. If he’s got to go, he’s got to GO. He may try and tell you this by biting at his leash or scratching at the door. In the interest of saving yourself from clean up on aisle four, make sure to pay extra close attention to these cues!
10) It’s (probably not) Electric!
Remember those glass orbs popular in the ’80s and ’90s that were full of electricity? If you laid a hand on them, it would make your hair stand on end? Well, if you notice your dog’s hair on end, chances are it’s not due to electric shock; it’s typically a sign of impending danger, nervousness,
or anger. Sometimes it’s the UPS delivery driver dropping off a package. This is another scenario that weighs heavily on context and awareness. It’s wise to investigate the cause and try to help your pup calm down if there is no actual danger.
Dogs experience a range of emotions, much like people. As you can see, if you pay attention and look for the signs, your pup is talking to you a lot. By becoming more aware of your dog’s behaviors and signals, you’re communicating to your furry friend that you care, and you want to understand him.
Plus, it will ensure that you’re building that lasting bond with each other – whether you’re starting at the puppy stage or beyond!
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