What is Your Dog Saying?

My Gram and I were having a conversation the other day about “dog language.”

We were discussing how dogs talk to each other, and how we try to communicate with our humans. My gram and I understand each other quite well, partly because we have been together for a long time and partly because my gram pays attention to what I am saying.

When was the last time you took a moment or two to try and understand what your dog was trying to tell you? Gotcha didn’t I? You probably do not remember the last time that you even tried to understand your dog.

Well, with a little help from my gram, we are going to try and walk you through some of the simpler things that dogs say, so that you may understand us a bit more.

A wagging tail! That can mean several things, to most it means a friendly dog, but don’t depend on it. Sometimes it means the dog is ready to attack or that it is frightened.

You need to look at the dog’s face in order to interpret what that wagging tail means. Does the face look relaxed or is it tense, are the ears in a relaxed position or are they laid back ready to charge?

Take a moment to be aware of the atmosphere around the dog before you assume because of the wagging tail that the dog is friendly. Gram says an ounce of caution can save you from a nasty bite.

A tail between a dog’s legs can be a sign of submission and sometimes its means I am frightened and scared, so do not hurt me.

A straight up tail can mean confidence and maybe a bit of defiance, but on the other hand some dogs have been bred to have tails that stand up straight.

One thing many people do not realize is that we dogs for the most part are a wee bit leery of having people pet us directly on the head. A lot of us do not like that or feel comfortable with it. Why? Back in the days of dog packs a dog showed its dominance by placing its head on top of another dog, this meant I am better than you are, so you better listen to me. That trait seems to still be genetically instilled in us and we react at times.

Barking! Oh, we sure do love to bark. Barking feels good, it makes us happy and it makes us feel in control. It is such a good feeling to bark at the mailman and watch him hurry away. What a sense of power that gives a dog.

Our noses! I know it is embarrassing for you humans to watch us put our noses to another dog’s behind, but relax, it is part of our world. That moment or two of smelling another dog’s scent gives us a chance to learn a zillion things about the other dog, without having to say one word. Scent to a dog is like a picture that takes the place of a million words is to you.

People sniffing is another thing we do, that causes our humans to die of embarrassment. Why do we head right for the groin area? For the same reason we sniff another dog’s behind, the scent can tell us a lot about you and what your reaction to us is. Believe it or not, we can even tell the difference between identical twins by their scent.

Why do we walk around in circles before lying down? It is a habit that is genetically instilled in us, that goes back to the old days, when we were in the wild. We flattened down the grasses and other weeds to make a nice bed to nap in.

Bet you never thought much about our yawning? Yep, we yawn when we are bored or tired just like our humans, but we also yawn to help us cope with stress.

Changes in our households can cause stress and we cannot tell you how we feel, so if you see us yawning a lot and you know we are not tired or bored, think about what is new or changed in the house. A little thought in that direction could prevent a future behavior problem.

Have you ever wondered why we blink? Dogs blink when they are thinking very hard about something. Yes, we do think. For instance, if you want your dog to sit and he stands there blinking, it is because he is wondering “do I have to.”

Rolling in “yuk.” Why do we love to roll in things that are not acceptable to our humans? It’s another way to communicate with another dog and to let them know you are having a wonderful day and wish the same for them. Back in our wild days we did it to hide our scent, that way any predator did not know we were around.

Why do we take so much time to go to the bathroom when we are out on our walk? Well, you like to read the paper when you are in the bathroom, don’t you?

Well, the urine scent that is on the trees, bushes and fire hydrants are our newspapers and we like to see what is going on and who was around. Girl dogs (that’s me) are not so nosey as boy dogs, we usually do our business and want to get back to our creature comforts, while the guys like to hang around.

That’s it for now, I hope gram and I have helped you learn a bit more about dog talk and you understand where we are coming from.

Until next time, I remain,

Your Loving Sadie