Being a dog owner comes with the remarkable opportunity to form an unbreakable bond with a loyal and loving companion. Yet, amidst the wagging tails and slobbery kisses, our furry friends communicate with us in a language that extends beyond barks and tail wags.
Dogs have their own intricate system of subtle cues and behaviors, and as responsible pet owners, it is vital for us to pick up on these signals.
Licking Your Face
A dog licking your face is often a sign of affection and a way for them to show their love and bond with their owners. It's a way for them to express their fondness and strengthen the emotional connection they share with you!
According to The Kennel Club, "Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!"
Obsessively Licking Paws
Dogs may lick their paws for a few different reasons, one being self-grooming. However, it might also be an allergy.
According to Dr. Kristi Flynn, an assistant professor and veterinarian at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, "The most common cause of paw licking is generally environmental allergies, also called atopic dermatitis. Other causes of licking paws can include ectopic parasites such as fleas or mites, referred pain from arthritis — licking the feet or limbs since they can't reach the painful joint."
Ears Pinned Back
Dogs may pin their ears back as a sign of submission or appeasement. It's a way for them to communicate that they are not a threat and are trying to avoid confrontation or conflict. This behavior is often accompanied by other submissive signals, such as lowered body posture, a tucked tail, or avoiding direct eye contact.
According to AZ Animals, "Having ears back is often a welcoming gesture from your dog. They are trying to get close to you without looking threatening."
Ears Pinned But A Wagging Tail
According to Laura Welch, a dog trainer and behavior specialist. It is very important to note if your dog's ears are pinned back, but their tail is still wagging.
She says, "If your dog's ears are back gently and this is accompanied by a wagging tail, then the dog is feeling friendly. If the dog’s ears are pinned back, this is the dog feeling scared. A dog’s tail wagging is not always a sign of happiness – only that they are interested in the interaction."
Maintaining Eye Contact
According to the American Kennel Club, one of the main reasons dogs stare at their owners is because they are trying to communicate and tell them something, have it be needing to go outside, wanting to play, or if they're in the mood for a snack!
Of course, there are other reasons why eye contact might be initiated, such as reading and understanding their owner's emotions, asserting dominance or challenge, and even bonding.
Leaning Against You
If your dog leans on you, there is a very simple explanation why.
Leaning against you is often a way for dogs to seek physical contact and affection from their owners. It's their way of expressing trust, love, and a desire for closeness.
Picking Up A Stick And Carrying It Home
There are many different reasons why dogs will pick up a stick during a walk and carry it home. One reason is as simple as they're having fun!
According to Hund Denmark, "When a dog picks up a stick, it's not just because they want to play fetch. Dogs carry sticks home because they are trying to communicate with you. Through body language and other forms of communication, dogs let us know that they want something from us when they pick up the stick. If your dog is carrying a stick around, don't assume that he wants to play fetch or tug of war!"
Puppy Dog Eyes
Puppy dog eyes can strengthen the bond between dogs and their human companions. The expression triggers an empathetic response in humans, leading to increased feelings of attachment, care, and a desire to provide for the dog's needs.
Amazingly, puppy dog eyes are an evolutionary advancement in domesticated dogs. According to a group of researchers, "Dogs have a facial muscle that has evolved over the past 33,000 years, making their eyes look bigger and their faces sadder, younger and cuter, reeling in the humans who come across them."
Taking A Favorite Toy On A Walk
Dogs may bring their favorite toy on a walk as a source of comfort and security.
Having their cherished object nearby can provide a sense of familiarity and help alleviate any anxiety or stress associated with being outside or in new environments.
Shaking Off When Not Wet
According to a study done in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, "...dogs can shake off around 70 percent of water on their fur in four seconds. But dogs also shake off when they're dry — and that means something entirely different."
If they shake and are not wet, this can be a sign of anxiety or stress.
While zoomies can be cute, there is a specific reason why dogs like to run around in circles really fast for a short burst of time.
According to the American Kennel Club, "they [dogs] have some form of excess energy that's been contained such as physical energy, like when they've been crated, or nervous energy, like when they have tolerated an uncomfortable situation."
Flicking Their Ears
While it looks a bit strange, there is no reason to be startled if your dog begins flicking its ears.
According to Pet Helpful, the reason dogs flick their ears is because they are listening. "Most animals usually flick their ears when there is an unfamiliar sound. So, if you see your four-legged pal flicking his ears forward and backward, you should know that he's just trying to catch the sound clearly."
If your dog is all of a sudden being destructive, it could mean a few different things, ranging from boredom to separation anxiety.
Highland Canine Training says, "These problems usually arise from a lack of exercise, mental stimulation, or training."
When a dog slowly blinks, it often signifies relaxation, trust, and contentment.
Slow blinking is considered a calming signal in dog communication. It's a way for dogs to convey non-threatening and friendly intentions, particularly towards other dogs or humans. Slow blinking can help diffuse tense situations and promote a sense of ease and relaxation.
If your dog is excessively drooping, it is definitely something to look into. The reason being it could mean they are having severe anxiety or nausea, are having dental issues, have ingested a toxin, or are overheating, according to Kingsdale Animal Hospital.
Of course, the drooling could also be because of the breed!
Abnormal Water Consumption
It is important to notice a dog's water consumption and if it has increased.
According to PetMD, increased or abnormal water consumption can mean a wide variety of things, including kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, Cushing's syndrome, or simply dehydration.
Increase In Vocalization
An increase in vocalization refers to a dog uncontrollably barking, whining, or crying at strange times of the day or night.
According to PetMD, "Such vocalization can be due to pain, illness or cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), or may be related to a decline in hearing in senior pets."
Sleeping On Their Back
There are a few different reasons why dogs will sleep on their backs. First and foremost, it is a vulnerable position for any animal, meaning the dog feels comfortable and safe in their environment. Another reason might be the dog is trying to cool off.
According to Dr. Travis McDermott, a vet at Durango Animal Hospital in Nevada, "Dogs exchange heat through their paws, and this [sleeping on their backs] allows them to cool down."
A dog raising its hackles might be self-explanatory, but there are more reasons for the expression than showing dominance or aggression towards another animal.
According to The Barmy Beagle, it can also mean the dog is excited, stimulated, or even anxious.
Excessive Itching And Rubbing Against Objects
There are a few different reasons why your dog may be itching or rubbing against objects (at least more often than normal.).
According to PetMD, this excessive itching and rubbing can be due to allergies, boredom, dry skin, parasites, pain, anxiety, or a hormonal imbalance. If you notice your dog itching excessively, it is recommended you bring them to the vet.
Pawing At Objects (Or You!)
Pawing at objects or you are pretty easy to understand: your dog is seeking attention!
Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Caroline Wilde says, "This attention-seeking tactic can be for anything from food or water to playtime or just some pats on the head."
Panting And Smiling At The Same Time
Panting and smiling at the same time is a great sign when it comes to dog behavior! It means they are happy and content.
According to PetMD, "Most of the time when dogs smile, they are indeed happy, so it's easy to relate that expression to human smiles."
Abnormal Paw Lifting When Taking Walks
Also known as knuckling, a dog who is walking abnormally on its front or back paws is something all dog owners look out for.
According to Integrative veterinarian Dr. Buzby, knuckling occurs for a variety of reasons, such as spinal stroke, intervertebral disc disease, degenerative myelopathy (spinal disease), carpal flexural deformity, and wobbler syndrome.
While humans typically yawn because they are tired, dogs yawn for an entirely different reason -- they're stressed (ok, and maybe a bit tired).
Turid Rugaas, Norwegian behaviorist and author of On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signal, says, "Yawning is one of many signals dogs use to calm themselves when they are stressed or uneasy."
If you notice your dog is tilting its head while you are speaking, this is a very good sign!
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, "A dog tilts his head to show that he is engaged much the way a human would nod during a conversation to indicate that he is listening."
Chasing Their Tail
Dog owners might want to think about bringing their dogs to the park if they catch them chasing their tails!
Hill's Pet Nutrition says, "More likely than not, they may be lacking mental stimulation, looking for attention, or simply trying to burn excess energy. That's the case for lots of dogs — especially younger dogs and puppies. Often, these dogs find that running in circles is great fun!"
If your dog is digging in the backyard, at the beach, or at the park, don't worry! This is an instinctual activity for your pooch.
According to the American Kennel Club, there are many different reasons why a dog may start digging, ranging from seeking out prey to finding cooler earth to lie down in if they're overheating.
Restlessness And Pacing
Sadly, if you see your dog pacing and restless, they are most likely anxious and stressed about something, such as waiting for their owner to get home.
According to Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, "At home, they may pace back and forth near the front door waiting for a family member to come home. They may pace near the back door when they need to go out and potty."
Changing Up Their Preferred Napping Spot
Don't worry too much if your dog changes around its typical napping spot in the house.
This action can mean a few different things, the most common being a drastic shift in temperature, a change in environment, or even seeking out a more comfortable area.
Sleeping With Their Feet Tucked Into Their Side, The "Donut"
If a dog is sleeping with their feet tucked into their stomach, they are doing nothing more than protecting themselves from threats.
McMac, says, "This position keeps all of the dog's vital organs tucked and hidden. When a dog sleeps in this position, it means that they seek to protect themselves while sleeping or that they’re still getting used to their environment. This is especially common in stray or new dogs."