The Language Of Your Dog


Understanding How Our Dogs Communicate With Us

Dogs are truly wonderful animals that have a lot more to say than we think. Although dogs can’t speak the same languages that we do, they can still communicate with us in various ways. Simply put, dog communication is complex. From body language to facial expressions, dogs use a wide variety of mediums to express their thoughts and feelings. The more we understand how dogs communicate, the more we can begin to understand exactly what they’re trying to say. Let’s dive into the various ways dogs communicate with each other and with us! 

Interpreting Dog Language

When it comes to communication, most people use their sense of hearing to interpret other people and rely on verbal speech and language to communicate in return. This is obviously not the case with dogs. Instead, dogs rely on the combination of body language and subtle verbal cues to communicate with us and with each other. Some of these forms of body language include posture, tail wagging, use of eyes, raised hackles, and facial expressions. But, dogs also incorporate some verbal cues such as barks, yelps, growls, and whines to further express themselves. When trying to understand your dog, it’s important to remember that dogs use the combination of all these different mediums to express themselves. Don’t focus on simply one aspect of their communication, rather, look at all forms in order to fully comprehend the big picture. 

Barks, Yelps, Growls, And Whines

Barking is a common verbal cue that dogs use to communicate. However, what your dog is trying to say with that bark varies upon the circumstances and the personality of the dog itself. For example; if your dog starts barking when you come home but is also wagging their tail and bringing you a toy, this bark is a sign of excitement and that they are happy to see you. On the contrary, if your dog is barking at the delivery man approaching your house with a package, this bark is a sign of territorial protection and alerting the leader of the pack (you) that a stranger is “on your turf.” Some dogs are easily excited and will bark at nearly anything while other dogs are very timid and shy and will avoid barking at all costs. The same applies to whines, yelps, and growls as it all depends on the circumstances and the personality of the dog itself. While whines are typically a sign of fear or subordination, they can just as easily be a sign of over excitement and joy. Growling is often interpreted as a sign of aggression or intimidation, but can also be a sign of frustration or uncomfortableness regarding the situation the dog is currently in. The best way to fully comprehend what your dog is trying to say is to first fully understand your dog’s personality and behavior. 

Facial Expressions

Dogs are people too! And just like people, dogs have an uncanny way of expressing themselves through facial expressions. However, dogs use their facial expressions in very different ways than humans which can often lead to serious misinterpretations. For example, a dog licking its lips doesn’t necessarily mean it’s hungry but rather it’s a sign that the dog is anxious. The same goes for yawning. People tend to yawn when they are bored or tired, but dogs yawn as a way to calm themselves when in a stressful situation. Lastly, one of the most confusing facial expressions dogs can make is the act of smiling. To someone who is unfamiliar with dogs, this can seem quite scary. When a dog bares its teeth at you, it’s often seen as a sign of aggression or showing off their weapons. But as mentioned previously, dog communication is complex and you must take into account all the different forms of communication the dog can use. A dog baring their teeth is only aggressive if it’s accompanied by a growl, snarl, drool, and/or a hostile posture (we’ll cover that shortly). Essentially, dogs don’t simply use one form of communication, but rather the combination of every form of communication they have at their disposal to both express themselves and understand the world around them. 


Similar to humans, dogs’ use of posture is an essential aspect of their overall body language. Posture can relay both a dogs’ intention or mood based on how they position their overall body. For example, if a dog is experiencing fear or stress it will cower and/or hunch itself down toward the ground trying to make itself seem as small as possible. On the contrary, if dogs are angry or trying to be intimidating, they will make themselves look as big as possible. They may straighten their back, puff out their chest, and stand as tall as they can. A dog will do all of this simply to convey one message or feeling. Body language is one the most reliable forms of communication they have to work with, so they use it well! In short, pay more attention to how your dog positions themselves in order to better understand how your dog feels. For a more detailed explanation of dog body language, check out the American Kennel Club Website

The Big Picture

In order to better understand your dog and the messages they are trying to convey, take everything they are doing into account. From body language, to facial expressions, and even the tone of their barks. They all mean something different! Through the combination of all these different mediums, dogs have literally developed their own language. Although we may not be fluent in dog language, it’s still important for us to try our best in learning and understanding their language. Why? We need to know our limits and boundaries with each dog, especially for us as a professional pet sitting company. The best part? Knowing these signs and cues help us form stronger bonds with our furry friends and that’s what we’re all about! To learn more about how to understand and communicate with dogs, check out our previous article called National Train Your Dog Month.