Dog Language and What You Should Know About It

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    Nov 29, 2013
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Dog Language and What You Should Know About It Photo by Raquel Cervera

If you own or have owned dogs sometime in your life, you must have experienced watching behaviors that you have wondered the meaning of and possibly wanted to know about this particular dog language that could help you understand your dog much better.

Because we humans use another type of communication, it is usually really hard for us to try to determine what dogs do to let themselves be understood by other dogs. The way they do it is always very clear to other members of their species, but seems to be virtually impossible for us unless we have some guidance as to the different ways they use.

Let us give you some basic ideas that will probably make your life a lot easier when interacting with your dog or when you watch it do the same with other dogs.

One of the most important things to do is to observe your dog patiently to learn its signals. Don’t pretend to interpret. You may end up with the wrong idea and if you fail to recognize the behavior, perhaps you may get in trouble or never end up helping your dog.

The following are some important clues dogs give and you should learn.

Sitting on Three Legs and Lifting One Paw in the Air.

If you watch your dog do this, the meaning is just a message of submissiveness and non threatening behavior. Other dogs may react quite positively to it, although there may always be exceptions.

Going Back for More Playing

There are times when we watch our dog playing with another and consider it is being pushed around or even being hurt by the roughness of the activity. If you observe this and see that your dog retreats and does not want to continue playing any more, then you may assume it did not like that kind of play, but if you see that it goes back for more, be completely sure, even if you think it is being dominated or “abused”, that it is just part of the game and it enjoys it all right.

Head Placed Over the Back of Another Dog’s Neck

Many dog owners may be confused by this gesture, even thinking it may mean an invitation to play when in reality, it is one common way for the dog to indicate dominance over the other. The response to this will be determined by the other dog’s not minding or not liking being dominated. If you see this communication being performed on your dog, be aware of its reaction. Do not try to intervene unnecessarily. Your dog will let the other know immediately if it accepts or not.


If your dog completes a 360 degree spin, it is most likely letting you or another dog know it is happy and in a mood for playing some more. There are some breeds that do this naturally, like German Shepherds and Bull Terriers, known for chasing their tails that way.

Turning Their Back to Other Dogs

Just as humans would never give their backs if they believe they may be in any kind of danger, dogs only do this to another dog if they are completely relaxed and have no fear whatsoever.

Hair on the Back Goes Up

That is definitely a sign of the dog not being pleased in the presence of another dog or person. It may be both, a warning of a coming aggressive behavior or just excitement. There are other signs to look for if you observe this in your dog, like the movements of its body accompanying that first indication. You can always determine there is a high level of alertness present and should keep a close eye on any other hints your dog may give you as to what to expect next. Do not become afraid immediately. Only react if needed.

Letting Another Dog Smell Its Rear

That is just the way dogs “know” each other. The behavior is typical of all dogs and should not be interpreted as a sign of dominance.

Of course there are many more related behaviors a dog owner should be familiar with, like the meaning of the tail movements, kinds of barking, the position the dog assumes in different situations and many more that still fall into the category of “normal” and not pathological conducts our furry friends use to let themselves be understood. The above is just a simple list of very common but important ways you, as a dog owner, should become familiar with in order to move in the right direction when interacting with your dog.

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The author is running a site and a blog related to dog training,grooming and dog care. For more information about dog training and dog care, pay them a visit.

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