Dog Behavior

dog and cat

Dogs cannot talk in the human language.  We dogs understand much of what humans say, but our mouths do not work the same and we are unable to pronounce words or say any phrases, such as, “feed me.” or “I need to go outside.”  Instead of talking, we use body language.  Whenever I want outside I scratch at the door.  If I am sad I put my fluffy tail down and mope about.  You can tell what your dog wants by watching his behavior.  If he rolls over on his back, he most likely wants to be petted.  If a dog barks, he may see someone at the door.  Often, humans can look at a dog’s body language and tell what he is about to do.  If we walk stiff-legged, tail straight, teeth barred, we are acting hostile and intend to fight.  Here are a few signs in “dog language” that you need to know.

dog yawning

What’s happening?

Lip licking and shaking are signs of nervousness.  If a dog follows their human around and acts gloomy all day, he may be frightened or nervous.

A dog yawning is not what you think it is!  You would probably think that he’s sleepy, but he isn’t.  When a dog yawns, it means that he is confused.  He doesn’t understand what is going on and is puzzled by the situation.

dog bowing

Let’s play!

A dog who looks as if he was “taking a bow”, is not just bowing for the  audience.  There are two different things a dog could be doing.  Either he is  just merely stretching, or he is trying to tell you, “Let’s play!”  It is a way for  dogs to communicate when they feel like frisking about.  So pay attention the  next time your dog “bows”.  He just might want to play a game of fetch.

Sometimes dogs will “smile” or bar their teeth.  They are not being ferocious or trying to warn anybody  to get out of their path.  They are just saying, “Glad to see you!  Do you see my pearly whites?!”  Be  careful, though!  If your dog growls or even acts a little mean, he is being ferocious and just might bite  you.  Consult your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer if your dog ever acts vicious or bites you. 

mad chiwi

An over-protective Chihuahua

Pretty much everyone knows how a fierce dog acts, but I will go over some of the ways we behave anyway.  Growling, stiff legs, tail like a flagpole, staring down, and showing teeth are some of the ways we dogs tell others to back off.  Never approach a dog who acts like this.

Rolling over on the stomach and allowing a human to pet them means total submission in dogs.  Lots of dogs love tummy-rubs, but be careful about petting strange dogs you don’t know.  Even if the little lapdog is sweet looking, with licorice eyes and a fluffy, cream-colored coat, she just might bite you!  If a dog acts friendly she is probably safe to pet, but always pay attention to the behavior of dogs you don’t know, just in case.  

dog wagging tail

Dogs smile with their tails

Do dogs smile?  Of course we do!  We smile, but do so with our tails.  When our tails wag, we are happy.  Sometimes you can hear our tail go thump, thump, thump, as you rub our tummy.  As I said before, our mouths don’t work like humans’; we dogs have to find other ways to show our happiness.  So we wag our tails!  You can tell many things from a dog’s tail.  A tail that is tucked under a dog’s belly usually means that a dog knows that he has been bad or is scared.  Sometimes, when I get into my human’s trash, I tuck my tail under my belly too.  I know I have been a bad dog and feel guilty.  My tail just gives me away!

A dog howling

A dog howling

 Dogs don’t really cry.  That is, not in the human fashion.   Humans usually weep and shed tears.  We dogs have a different way of crying…we whimper.  Sometimes dogs even howl when they are distressed.  I howl when I am mad at those big dogs outside who dare to put a paw on my territory.  The nerve of those dogs!  Anyway, dogs do cry, but by whimpering and howling.  Pay attention to your dog if he “cries”.  He may just need an extra pat or a few nice word such as, “You are the best, cutest, loving, most adorable, wonderful, prettiest dog on the whole entire planet, and I love you!!!”  That would make any dog’s day really happy.

dog wanting walk We dogs use many methods to get our message through.  For  instance, “Bark! Bark! Woof!” means, “I have to go outside! Open the  door!”  Humans may not understand what we mean at first, but if you pay close attention to  your furry friend, you will soon see patterns as your dog does certain things.  He may scratch at  the door to be let inside, bark for you to feed him, or knock down an expensive, glass vase to  tell you that he wants to go outside.  Even if he is breaking vases every time he wants to go  outside, the dog is actually very smart.  He has learned how to get his way.  The dog thinks, “If I  break this vase my human screams and let’s me outside!  I think I’ll try that again tomorrow.”   And tomorrow the same thing happens.  The human shouts at his dog and sentences him outside  for two hours.  The human thinks it’s a proper punishment.  The dog thinks he got his way and  will try his luck again until his master runs out of glass vases!  The dog does not understand why  his human is punishing him when he shouts, “You are a bad dog, Fido!  Noooo!  Do you hear  me?  Bad dog!  Go outside for two whole hours.  Bad dog!”  As you can see, the dog got his way.   He is now happily skipping about outside while his human is sweeping up the broken pieces of  vase.  Fido has no idea that he has been bad.  The dog just needs to be taught an alternative to  breaking glass containers to tell his human that he wants to go outside.  Here’s something to do that will help:  teach your dog to sit.  Check out Basic Training to learn how to teach your dog this useful trick.  Begin with Sit before you take your dog on a walk.  Tell him to Sit before you open the door.  Make him Sit before he gets fed.  This way, the dog learns that if he wants something he has to sit.  That’s much better than a broken vase! 

*Even if your dog breaks vases such as Fido did in the example, I hope you don’t ever yell at your dog.  All your dog needs is something else to do such as sitting for the door to be opened.




About Sissy

Hi! I'm Sissy, a Toy Poodle. On Doggy Times I share articles about dog training, socialization, care, and health. Check out the Trick and Dog Breed Pages to learn more about your furry friend and how to train him/her.

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