Decoding Canine Communication: Understanding Dog Behavior and Common Signs

Dog looking up at person

Written by Luna Martinez

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Hello, fellow dog lovers! Today, we’re going to delve into the fascinating world of dog behavior. Dogs have a unique way of communicating, and understanding their signals can significantly enhance your bond with your furry friend. Let’s explore some common dog behaviors and what they mean.

Tail Wagging

Most people associate tail wagging with a happy dog, but the truth is a bit more complex. The direction and speed of the wag, along with the dog’s body language, can indicate a range of emotions. A slow wag with a relaxed body usually means they’re happy, while a fast wag with stiff body language can indicate that they’re feeling threatened or anxious.


Barking is a form of vocal communication that dogs use for various reasons. Continuous, rapid barking at a mid-range pitch is often a sign of alarm or fear. One or two sharp, short barks at a mid-range pitch can be a greeting, while incessant barking with pauses in between might indicate that your dog is lonely and needs some company.


While dogs do yawn when they’re tired, a yawn can also be a sign of stress or anxiety, especially in unfamiliar or tense situations. If your dog yawns when visiting the vet or during a loud thunderstorm, it’s likely a stress yawn.


Dogs primarily pant to cool down, but it can also be a sign of stress, pain, or excitement. If your dog is panting heavily even though they haven’t been exercising, it might be a sign of stress or a health issue, and you should consult your vet.

Licking and Chewing

Dogs often lick and chew to soothe themselves. If your dog is licking or chewing their paws excessively, it could be a sign of an allergy, a skin condition, or stress.

Rolling Over

When a dog rolls over and exposes their belly, it’s usually a sign of submission or trust. They’re showing you their most vulnerable area as a sign of respect or to indicate they’re not a threat. However, if your dog does this during training or a scolding, it could be their way of trying to appease you and end the interaction.

Raised Hackles

The hair along a dog’s back and shoulders is known as their hackles. When these hairs stand up, it’s a sign that the dog is aroused, but not necessarily in an aggressive way. It could be due to excitement, fear, insecurity, or surprise.

Ear Position

A dog’s ears can tell you a lot about their mood. Erect ears facing forward indicate that the dog is engaged and interested. If the ears are flat against the head, it can be a sign of fear or submission.

Understanding your dog’s behavior is a crucial part of responsible pet ownership. It allows you to respond appropriately to their needs and emotions, leading to a happier and healthier dog. Remember, every dog is unique, and what holds true for one might not apply to another. The key is to spend time with your dog, observe their behavior, and learn their individual communication style. If you’re having trouble understanding what your dog is trying to tell you, consult a trainer!

In our next post, we’ll be discussing the benefits of regular exercise for your dog, so stay tuned! As always, we’re here to support you on your journey of pet parenthood. Happy dog parenting, everyone!

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