Dog Communication 101: What Does It Mean When…

Dog Communication 101: What Does It Mean When…


I’m fairly certain that I am not alone in wishing that I could read my dogs’ minds. For instance, what does Zoey want to say to me when I talk to her in a voice three octaves higher than usual? Or how much love does little Bailey feel for me when I pull her close to snuggle, as she’s trying to squirm free to play with her toys? While I can’t read their minds to answer these questions, and many others, there are numerous ways that dogs communicate to let us know how they’re feeling! Understanding what your dog is trying to tell you, can really come in handy and help strengthen your bond that is already unbreakable.

What does it mean when my dog…paws at me?pawing 101

For starters, let’s talk about what it means when your pup paws at you. I know in my household, it is an almost nightly occurrence that I receive the puppy paw from Zoey. It’s such a gentle gesture, that I have often sat and wondered what it is she’s trying to tell me as I’m massaging her paw in my hand for minutes at a time.  It turns out, that this is a pups way of communicating a number of things!

According to an article written by “Dog’s Best Life”, one possibility of your pooch pawing at you, is that they are trying to get your attention. Not only can this gesture save you from the black hole that is your current Netflix binge-watching session, but it is a subtle reminder that your pup needs some TLC every now and then.

Now, let’s say your furry friend was just caught red-pawed doing something along the lines of dragging the toilet paper out of the bathroom, while it’s unraveling on the holder (cough, cough…Bailey). If this is the case, then pawing might happen for another reason-to say “sorry”.  One way your dog might try to get back in your good graces (as if it takes more than one look into those big, brown eyes anyways), is they will gently paw at you.

The final implication that pawing might have, is simply to let you know that your pup is there for you, and is always looking up to you as their caretaker and favorite pup-parent.

Dog Head Tilt 101What does it mean when my dog…tilts their head to the side?

Onto the next man’s best friend mystery-the infamously adorable head tilt. My dogs seem to bust out the head tilt on many different occasions; when they want to share my dinner, when they closely watch the intruder (squirrel) in the yard, or when I’m having a conversation with them. So what’s the real reason behind why they do it? The answer, according to Vet Street, is that they could truly be trying to make sense of what they’re hearing, and what you’re saying. If your dog thinks that you’re trying to communicate something that means good news for them, the head tilt could occur. They might cock their head to the side to better tune into the tone of your voice, and make it easier to pick up on the use of any keywords they’ll understand (“treat”, “walk”, “ball” etc.).

As for why the head tilt might occur when they’re keeping an eye on the intruder in the yard, it could be a sign that they’re trying to understand what is going on. Further, by tilting their head, their hearing abilities can improve to help them pick up on things such as distance of the sounds they’re hearing, and tuning into any possibilities of alarming or threatening sounds.

How do I know….when my dog doesn’t feel well?
A more serious lesson in Dog Communication, is knowing when your best friend doesn’t feel well. Out of all of the times it would be vital for your dog to be able to talk, it would be when they need to tell you that they don’t feel well. Since this is not a possibility, it’s important to know what signs to look for, in order to know when a trip to the vet might be necessary.

One sign of illness mentioned by WebMD, that is important to pay close attention to, is if Fido seems to lack their usual level of energy. If your pup is usually spunky and likes to be in constant motion, and is suddenly laying in the corner and not keen on moving much, you might want to monitor them to see if this lethargic behavior continues. Just because your dog isn’t vomiting or showing obvious indications that they don’t feel well, doesn’t mean that everything is okay.

Another more obvious sign that your pup isn’t feeling well, is if they have spells of diarrhea or vomiting. This generally indicates something isn’t going right in their tummies, and could require medical attention if it persists. Causes for either of these things, can be due to numerous reasons, and of different levels of severity. Something as simple as your dog getting into the garbage, could very easily cause a dogs stomachs to react this way. There are numerous ways that you can help “pet-proof” your house, in order to best prevent these type of situations from happening. For a comprehensive pet safety guide, to make your home as safe as possible for your dog, be sure to check out these tips from

What does it mean when my dog….sighs and groans?Dog Groans 101

This next communication lesson is one that I personally benefited from quite a bit: the doggy groan and sigh. It is quite possible that Zoey is the “Queen of the Groan”, usually as a result of thinking she’s “Queen of the Bed”. Contrary to what she believes, she is not entitled to 75% of the bed. When it comes time to re-negotiate sleeping positions, I am given a lengthy groan in return. It’s no surprise that this groan can indicate frustration, or extreme sleepiness, as indicated in an article published by The Daily Puppy. However, in other situations, like during a belly rub, your pups’ groan or sigh probably suggests they’re completely content and loving how comfortable they are.

Face Licks 101What does it mean when my dog…licks my face?

And finally, my favorite dog communication tactic of all-slobbery face licks. Before we all jump to conclusions and assume that dog kisses only have one meaning, I’m here to tell you that is not true! Thanks to Pedigree, I now know that dog licks can have a couple of different meanings. One of these being that your face could simply taste good! If you have just come back inside after some time under the sun, or maybe you just finished a workout, your pup might be giving you some sloppy licks to the face to taste the salty flavor. Another reason for a puppy lick, that dates back to their primitive roots, could be that they lick your face to imply that they might be hungry. It is instinctive for dogs to lick their mothers, to signal they would like her to regurgitate food for them to eat. Although your pup probably doesn’t expect any regurgitation to take place, they still might be trying to let you know they’re ready to eat.

But of course, as we all already assumed, a lick from your furry friend is a way for them to just let you know they love you. Although, as Pedigree points out, your pup probably doesn’t understand that it is a “kiss” they are giving, it is surely an indication that you’re doing something right.


What Does It Mean When My Dog … Barks Excessively? Dog Communication 101: What Does It Mean When…

One of the most misunderstood communication processes our dogs try to tell us something through is barking.Many dog owners assume that their dog is “only barking for the sake of it”, and that if they ignore this for enough time, then their dog will simply give it up. However, this is a big mistake many dog owners do, as a barking dog is a dog trying to communicate a message to its owner, and you never want this communication process to stop!

So, let’s talk about some of the most common reasons that drive dogs to bark excessively and stuff our dogs try to communicate to us through excessive barking:

  • – Potential danger they sense, whether it’s us at risk or them
  • – Fear from anything they see or hear
  • – Dogs suffering from separation anxiety
  • – Loneliness/boredom, which is when they start to bark to get your attention
  • – Misery (although most of the times, dogs will tend to howl and cry instead if in despair about something)
  • – Underlying medical problems and diseases

It’s especially important that you regularly take your dog to the veterinarian for frequent checkups because excessive barking could be a sign of an underlying medical problem they’re suffering from.

Now, if there was ever a tip for dog owners to help them regulate their dog’s excessive barking problem, it’s giving them sufficient exercise. Give your dog the exercise they need during the day, both on the physical level (with physical exercise) and mental level (with toys and games) and see for yourself how the problem will more than likely take care of itself.

That’s because most of the times, a dog that’s excessively barking is telling you that they’ve got nothing better to do and are pleading for you to give them something else to kill their time with. Do you think a tired dog (don’t worry, the type of exercise we’re talking about here is the good kind of tired) will have the energy or desire to bark just for the sake of it? They’ll want to get some well-deserved rest instead, or just go on with their day being productive and good boys/girls.


Barking Collie Image Source

Paw Handshake Image Source


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