If you’re a dog owner, you probably spend a lot of time trying to understand your dog. The good news is that they too are trying to understand you and communicate to you! For dogs and their humans, it’s all about meeting in the middle. Today we’re going over it all, so scroll down and find out more.

While vocal isn’t the main way dogs talk, it’s a way they can talk. Dogs produce different types of sounds and in this way can achieve some basic communication with humans and other dogs. They may try this when they’ve exhausted other efforts; for instance, your dog wants to go out and has tried several ways to show this and finally resorts to a bark.

Dogs may choose to communicate vocally because they get emotionally excited, such as seeing a squirrel outside or a new person coming to the home (and they feel they need to warn us that a new person is entering). Or it may just work– a sound gets a reaction, so it reinforces using barking or noise to communicate because it gets results. They may even think that they need to make noise in order to get through to you.

Dogs can recognize human sounds but mostly learn single words better. They can recognize human sounds, but hard consonants like commands that end in ‘t’ like ‘sit’ or ‘wait’ they are naturally attuned to. Body language and tone can often provide context for words as well but don’t expect long sentences to work.

Body Language
Dogs actually communicate a lot through body language signals. Whether sending them out or receiving and translating them, this is dogs’ bread and butter when it comes to understanding and communicating. Dogs can communicate freely amongst each other using body postures, movements, and facial expressions. But when they try this on humans, it’s not always a smooth translation.

Humans don’t speak dog in a lot of cases. Some pet owners may not even be aware of this and just assume that canines communicate in a way similar to humans. But a lot of the signing or talking that dogs do to us can get lost in the mud where we either don’t notice them or misinterpret.

For instance, a submissive ‘smile’ may be misinterpreted as joy and become reinforced. Barking because they are nervous may be interpreted as ‘bad behavior’. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for messages to get lost in translation for humans and dogs.

But dog trainers know the significance and value of signs and communicating to dogs through body language. They know how to use a variety of signs from direct eye contact to hand signals and forward body movement to successfully give a command. Dogs do turn to sound to express themselves to the humans around them.

Here are some common dog sounds you can learn to recognize.

  • Whimpering. This means they’re having anxiety, that they’re unhappy or miserable in some way.
  • Whining. Imparts frustration.
  • Growling. Threatened, scared, on edge. A warning to leave them alone.
  • Howling. Communication over a distance, loneliness, or sadness. They may be trying to find you.
  • Barking. Used for a variety of means. Could be acting as an alarm, barking to say hello, or alerting you to certain things.

Dog Body Language

  • Averted eyes. This shows submission or deference to your alpha/leader status. They’re not looking for a fight.
  • Direct eye contact. They either want attention or it may be a threat to not mess with them.
  • Looking at something. Your dog is most likely trying to get your attention and help them with something, like a toy that’s gone under the couch that they can’t get.

Head & Neck Posturing

  • Up means a challenge or at attention.
  • To the side or turned away means they are either submitting or trying to avoid something.
  • Head held low means submission.

Body & Torso

  • Tensed muscles mean a sign of fight or flight coming on.
  • A relaxed body and muscles mean your dog is feeling mellow, relaxed, and easy going.
  • Low head but raised rear with a wagging tail means that they may be in the mood to play.
  • An up tail can mean the dog is engaged, a tucked tail they are submissive, and wagging can display their energy level.
  • Moving towards a person usually means that they can get their attention. Moving away from a person may mean they feel defensive.

Dogs are man’s best friend, and the good news is that they’re trying to talk to us! Spend some time learning their language and maybe you’ll be able to communicate back. Good communication is the foundation of any relationship, so develop your skill in this area and reap the rewards by having a better rapport with your pup than ever.