Having a new puppy can be a lot to handle, between dog training, flea and tick medications, finding an online vet, getting pet insurance, and shopping at PetSmart for dog food and dog treats—there’s a lot to do! However many items you buy to prepare to welcome your new furry friend, there’s one important thing you should educate yourself on before they come home: how do dogs communicate with humans? What can I look for in my dog’s actions and behavior to see what it needs? Read on to learn the most common ways our dogs communicate with us and what it means:
You can tell how a dog is feeling based on their tail position and speed of wagging. A slow tail wagging back and forth is a happy and relaxed dog, a fast wagging tail that wags from the hips is a happy and playful dog. If your dog’s tail is tucked between their hind legs, it’s a sign that they are scared or stressed. A dog’s tail wagging demonstrates emotional arousal, and it could be a positive or negative response. Be sure to know the difference and look for other suggestions in your dog’s behavior to see if their tail wagging is a positive or negative response.
2. Facial expressions
Dogs can express their feelings through facial expressions, you just have to recognize that they are trying to express something to you. A yawning dog may just be because they are tired, but frequent yawning demonstrates that they are stressed or anxious. Another sign of stress or anxiety is frequent lip-licking. Believe it or not, some dogs can also smile, but if you’re not familiar with the expression, a smiling dog can be scary as they bare their teeth. This can be wrongly assumed as an aggressive expression, so make sure to note other signs that your dog is happy, like a slow wagging tail.
A dog with squinted, soft eyes is showing that they’re calm and happy. A hard stare usually indicates that the dog is ‘guarding’ something or feeling threatened. If your dog is avoiding eye contact, it can be a sign that they are nervous or anxious. Similarly, if your dog is showing the whites of their eyes, it’s a sign of discomfort, stress, or anxiety.
When your dog’s ears are forward and perked up, it’s a sign that they are paying attention or are curious about something—especially if paired with a tilted head. If your dog’s ears are positioned flat against their head, they may be scared or feeling aggressive. If your dog’s ears are back, they are trying to appear non-aggressive and friendly, so give them a pet!
5. Types of barks
One loud bark may be to say ‘knock it off’ when they’re feeling annoyed, the quicker the succession of barks means the more aggressive your dog is feeling, and on the other hand, a lot of barks in intervals may indicate your dog is lonely and doesn’t want you to leave. It’s important to pay attention to the pitch, duration, and frequency of barks—if you note the scenario accompanied with the bark, you’ll learn what your dog’s barks mean in no time.
6. Putting it all together
As mentioned throughout, it is important to look at all of the body language together to decipher what your dog is really trying to say, especially when trying to figure out if they’re demonstrating a happy or aggressive response. If you learn to understand and read your dog, you will develop a deeper bond and more trust with your dog.