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How Do Dogs Communicate With Us? Canine Behaviour and Body Language

Building a strong bond with your canine is paramount for ensuring they have an enriched and happy life. As dogs can’t communicate verbally, they rely on us to read and understand their behaviour and body language. Dogs primarily communicate via body language, so being able to interpret their signals will allow you to respond appropriately.

In this article, we’ll explore the question on everyone’s lips ‘how do dogs communicate with us?’. explore four key behaviours that dogs express and how you can spot these to develop a deeper connection with your furry friend.

Tail Wagging: Are they just happy?

A common conception is that a wagging tail indicates a happy dog. But this isn’t always the case, with the speed, position, and direction of the tail all conveying different emotions. A neutral or slightly raised and fast tail often signals a dog is excited or friendly, whereas a low and slow tail can suggest submission or anxiety.

Do bear in mind that a fast tail doesn’t mean the dog won’t show aggression. Check their body language is relaxed, not rigid, and that the tail isn’t vertical. Positive body language can include them wiggling the hips while the tail wags freely.

If you notice that they stop wagging their tail or freeze in position, it can mean they want to avoid a situation without being aggressive. You may notice this when strangers try to pet your dog. In these instances, kindly ask people not to interact with your dog when out and about.

Facial language

Most people don’t realise that dogs use facial expressions to convey their emotions. Things like raised eyebrows, soft eyes, and a relaxed mouth all communicate a calm and content state. Alternatively, wide eyes, a furrowed brow, and bared teeth indicate aggression, anxiety, or fear.

Being informed about these facial cues can help you better understand how your dog is feeling and if you need to act differently. Each breed of dog will have a different temperament, so it’s best to research this first so you are aware of what behaviours will be more prevalent.

Body movement

A dog’s body movements offer valuable insight into their intentions and the way that they’re feeling. Play bows, where the rear end is raised and the front legs extended, signal an invitation to play and that they are excited.

Conversely, a submissive dog may cower, lower their head, or roll onto their back. Erratic or rapid movements can imply anxiety or fear. It’s important to monitor these movements to gauge your dog’s comfort level in different situations.

Ensure that they have a space of their own at home to retreat to if they need some time alone or seem uneasy. Make this space comfortable for them by including a luxury dog bed and a crate with some bedding. Allow them to spend time here without interruption and observe their behaviour when they appear again. When they’re fast asleep snoozing, even their sleep positions can communicate their feelings.

Vocalisations and noises

While dogs can’t talk about their emotions, they can certainly make some noise. Barks are the most common vocalisation but can be misconstrued easily. If your dog barks, it can mean they are experiencing various emotions, such as excitement, warning, or fear. Understanding their mood comes down to the frequency, pitch, and duration of the bark.

Typically, the lower the pitch of the bark, the more conflicted or cautious the dog is. Higher pitches generally indicate playfulness and eagerness. Longer barks can indicate they feel threatened, whereas shorter barks could mean they are fearful.

If your pup tends to bark briefly, particularly before going for walks or giving them their dinner, this signals interest arousal excitement or frustration. Repeated barking can mean your dog feels uneasy or threatened.

Other noises to listen out for include growling and whimpering. Growls can convey feelings of warning but sometimes are made during playtime. On the other hand, whines and whimpers can signal discomfort, anxiety, or a desire for attention.


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