fbpx Skip to main content

Dog Communication: How to Know What Fido Is “Saying”

By September 22, 2020November 5th, 2020Pet Behavior

Dogs can’t talk the way humans do, but dog communication is a language in its own right! Learn how to read canine body language, and you’ll learn a lot about your dog. The following is a compilation of some of the most common posture signs to look for when you need to know what your dog is “saying.”

Exposed Tummy

If your pooch rolls overexposing his belly, you may think he’s pleading for a tummy rub. However, the dog-on-his-back pose can signify submission. If your dog looks relaxed, he probably does want to be petted. But if his ears are flattened, his eyes narrowed, and his tail tucked between his back legs, your dog is nervous, and trying to tell you he means no harm.

Play Bowing

Nothing says, “Let’s go play!” quite as adorably as your dog bending his front paws and sticking his bum in the air. Your dog may bow repeatedly, smack his front paws on the ground, and happily wag his tail. He’s clearly telling you that he’s ready for some fun. 

Raised Hackles

If you notice that your dog has a ridge of raised hair on his back (his hackles), this means he’s very alert. He also may be feeling unsure, anxious, or even aggressive, so it’s best to be careful and keep clear. 

Turned Back

In the human world, turning your back on someone is rude. However, in dog communication, it’s a positive sign. Your dog facing away from you means he trusts you and doesn’t feel threatened. He may also be inviting you to give his rear end a friendly sniff as he would with a new canine acquaintance – don’t worry, you don’t have to! Your clever dog may have also learned that presenting you with his back rewards him with satisfying scratches in hard-to-reach spots. 

Dog Communication: The Tale of the Tail

Your dog’s tail is a very expressive part of his body, so it’s good to know what role it plays in dog communication. If you are unsure what your dog’s tail is telling you, check for other body language cues for more clarity. 

  • Tail Wagging – Tail swooshing at mid-height usually signifies a happy wag. However, depending on how the tail is wagging, other things may be indicated. If the tail movements are faster and higher (maybe accompanied by a wiggling butt), your dog is very excited. A high tail with rapid back-and-forth twitches probably means your dog is on edge or agitated. A tail down and slowly swaying means your dog is wary or unsure about something. 

  • Tail Positions – Various non-wagging tail signs have significant meanings in dog communication. A stiff tail that’s straight up in the air signifies aggression. This is especially so if your dog’s teeth are bared, his body is tense, and he’s leaning slightly forward ready to lunge. Even if your dog doesn’t look especially angry, an erect tail could mean he’s edgy and ready to snap. Your dog’s tail between his legs indicates fear, and if he feels cornered or threatened, he could react aggressively.

Understand Your Dog

CVETS hopes that this short article has given you a better understanding of dog communication. For more information on this important subject, click here. Your dog also can’t tell you when he’s feeling ill, so you need to be aware of those signs too. And, if your dog lives in our area and requires emergency treatment, bring him to our state-of-the-art Emergency Vet and Surgery Center.