How Do Dogs Communicate?

Dogs are great. They always want to be around us. They are our best friends and faithful companions. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could communicate with us? The fact is.. they can! We have been communicating with dogs longer than with any other species of animal on earth. We have come to understand their way of communication as they have come to learn ours. Dogs communicate with sounds and body language. Guess what… so do we! We are so alike, it’s know wonder we are best friends!

Those of you with more than one dog.. have you ever watched your dogs communicate to eachother? It’s really quite interesting! Dogs always establish a chain of command. The dominate alpha male, the dominate alpha female, and the submissives. The two alphas rule over the rest of the pack. They have the job of setting the rules for that pack. Kind of like a Mom and Dad watching over their kids. If one of the submissive dogs tries to break a rule, that dog will be warned by one or both of the alphas. Usually this involves a threat. The alpha male may show his teeth and growl. His ears will be pinned back close to his head. He is saying, "Watch out, or I’ll attack you, and you don’t want to mess with me!" This is his way of communicating with that submissive dog. If the submissive dog ignores the threat, the alpha male will attack. Sometimes he may just put his muzzle around the submissive’s muzzle, or bite the submissive on the ear. This is the alpha’s way of saying, "I warned you, I am the boss!"

Dogs communicate with us in the same way. That is why it is crucial that they know we are the alphas of our pack. A typical family of four with one dog is a pack to that dog. No matter how many people there are, or how many dogs there are, dogs see it as a pack. Dogs will defend their pack, and their packs territory when they feel threatened. A good example of this is the mail man. When the mail man show up, the dog thinks, "Hey, who’s that on my families territory? He’s not part of my family, so he’s a potential threat to them. I’d better get rid of him quick!" So then the dog will bark uncontrolably to warn the intruder until the he leaves and is off of the property. The dog thinks he has successfully completed his duty by ridding his family of a potential threat. When he is yelled at for barking at the mail man, he doesn’t understand why he is not being praised instead. After all, he just defend his family, and they are yelling at him. He is then confused. To correct this, we need to communicate to him that the mail man is not a threat. To do this, we simply ask the mail man to meet the dog. The dog will then see that the mail man is not a threat, but a friend, and he will look forward to his next visit. Now just because we need to be the alphas, doesn’t mean we should go around growling at our dogs. That would be silly. We use training methods to teach our dogs who’s boss.

When your dogs ears are laid back, it can mean one of two things. Either he is content, or angry. If he is content, he will be calm and relaxed. If he is angry, he will show his teeth and growl. If any dog you come across has his ears laid back, his lips curled and showing his teeth while growling, he is threatening you. Do not look him directly in his eyes. If you do, you are telling him you accept his challenge, and he may attack you. NEVER turn your back on an aggressive dog, or run. If you do, he is more likely to chase you, and you will be attacked. The best thing to do is BACK AWAY SLOWLY. When you back away slowly you are telling him that you do not want to fight, and acknowledging his authority. He is less likey to feel he needs to attack to teach you a lesson. Other things to look for from an aggressive dog are raised hair on his back and his tail held straight, but low. These are all signs that the dog means business.

On the other hand, a dog that is scared will hold his tail between his legs and back away from you. He may also pin his ears down and hold his head low. If you approach the dog, he may roll over on his back. This is his way of saying, "I don’t want to fight you!" If you watch your dogs communicate, you may see this from time to time. The alpha will stand over the submissive while the submissive rolls over on his back. This is how they maintain authority. Here are some things to look for to tell what your dog is saying to you……..

Nervous: Tail between legs, head held low, shaking, defensive posture.

Excited/Happy: Head held up, ears perky, tail wagging high, barking.

Bored/Sleepy: Laying around, eyes half open, sighs, yawning.

Wants to play: Play bowing(Front down, back raised), barking, tail wagging.

Aggressive: Hair on back raised, ears pinned down, tail wagging low, offensive posture, lips curled, teeth showing, snarwling or growling.

Wants Something: Stares at you, paws at you, ears held up, tail wagging high.

Love: Licking, cuddling, laying on you.

These are just a few examples of how dogs communicate with us and eachother. Keep in mind that all dogs are different in personality, and may have some of their own unique ways of communicating with us. After all, dogs have to learn how to communicate with us just as much as we have to learn to communicate with them.


About thecanineguru

I am a canine behaviorist of 23 years and offer canine rehabilitation, training, and behavior change to clients under the given name "The Canine Guru." I am known mostly for my online presence through my blogs, Doggy Times and Doggy Times II. Both were honored by MSN Editors multiple times. My methodology focuses on energy and how to use and read it. I firmly believe in operant conditioning and positive reinforcement. I don't feel that choke, pinch, or electric collars are necessary when working with dogs. The harshest method I ever use is the squirt bottle and the occasional touch, or poke. I'm known for "speaking" to dogs in their own language using body language, energy, touch, and the occasional sound.
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5 Responses to How Do Dogs Communicate?

  1. Unknown says:

    Great info Brandon, thanks!Hey, we mastered the hula hoop and giving kisses on cue too! LOL…..housebreaking too!

  2. Unknown says:

    Hello!! Just wanted to thank you for stopping by The MSN Post and let you know that you have been linked to my site. Hopefully you shall have more hits and comments and the works. Have a wonderful day!P.S. If you haven’t checked it out already…Check out the Bring your Pets to MSN day event that is being held by DJ Shorty!! Think about participating. You may get more people to your site that way!!

  3. Eddie says:

    Great site here, just found it. I have a cockerspainel that is 8 years old and love her to death. Looking forward to seeing more of your blogsThanksEddieWest Virginia

  4. Unknown says:

    I just found your sites. they’re great! Thanks so much for doing these. I have a 1 yr old standard poodle (Baxter) and a 1 yr 9 mos old standard "schnoodle" (standard schnauzer/poodle). I’m in Seattle. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Thanks

  5. Unknown says:

    I just found the site and I love it. I have three cats but I love dogs too. i love all animals.

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