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Learning to Decipher Your Dog's Body Language

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Learning to Decipher Your Dog's Body Language
Learning to Decipher Your Dog's Body Language | Innovet Pet

It probably took you a minute to learn the many different ways your dog communicates with you. Like people, no two animals are exactly alike. And you realized right away that your pup had some mannerisms that were very specific to them. Their temperaments are unique to them, their attitude, their personality, demeanor, and the cute little things they do to communicate all of this.

Kind of.

Everybody sees a wagging tail as the universal sign of a happy dog. But is it really universal? And does it even mean your dog is happy or excited? As you’ve figured out by now, your dog will never learn to actually talk to you and tell you precisely what they’re feeling and thinking, so learning to appropriately label their body language can actually improve how you two communicate as well as strengthening the bond you have. In fact, there are a handful of things your dog does to show affection toward you as well as joy that you may have been misinterpreting for years now. For example…

Yawning Isn’t What You Think It Is

Here’s another one of those universal signs we all have pegged, right? When a person yawns, not only is it contagious, but it means they’re at least somewhat tired. And we’ve assigned this same meaning to our lazy pups yawning their way through the day as well.

But that’s not necessarily the case. In the wild, dogs yawn as a sign of submission. This means when they do this around us multiple times throughout the day, what they're really doing is just naturally reacting to how relaxed and comfortable they are. So this is actually a pretty endearing bit of body language when you think about how often our dogs are lounging around and yawning away, content with knowing they can trust you and feel safe and secure.

…but sometimes it can mean the opposite?

Well, this is confusing. Pick one, right?

In a completely different setting, this very natural action can actually take on an entirely different meaning. Yes, a dog yawning at home all day is a sign they’re relaxed and comfortable, which is to be expected when they’re around you and a positive sign of your relationship overall. However, when they’re constantly doing this is public it’s a sign they’re feeling anxious and potentially uncomfortable.

Standing With One Paw Up Is a Sign of Curiosity

You recognize this pose but may have never given much thought to whether or not it actually means anything at all. Well, something’s caught their attention and the wheels in their brain are turning when this happens. You’ll probably now notice that they’re sniffing around, their ears might be perked up, and they’re looking in every direction possible. Your dog is simply being alert and trying to figure something out, either out of genuine curiosity or confusion. Either way, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re alarmed, it’s just a sign your dog is paying attention to their surroundings.

Lying at Your Feet Is a Sign of Ultimate Affection

This is one that’s not too hard to decipher. Having your pup lay at your feet is a good feeling. There’s a warmth to cuddling up next to that four-legged friend that just shouts loyalty. Whether you’re sitting in your favorite armchair at the end of the night or relaxing at the dinner table, this is a common time for dogs to follow their owner and plop down as close to them as possible - some people find it annoying, some love it, and some tolerate it. What your dog is doing is actually making sure they stay as physically close to you as possible, sometimes as a sign of protection. It’s quite an endearing move on their part.

Flipping Their Tongue at You Means ‘I’m Sorry’

This one is news to a lot of people.

What’ not news to many people is that their dog is smart enough to often know when they’ve done something they’re not supposed to. The way they communicate that fact is typically by approaching you and flipping their tongue as if licking the air. Typically, they’ll pair this with attempting to look as innocent as possible, hoping you can’t stay too mad at them for too long…and of course, you probably can’t.

Chewing on and Destroying Furniture Means Exactly What You Probably Thought

Many people know that destroying furniture at home is a sure sign of your dog acting out. Well, that assumption is fairly on point. When a dog isn’t getting enough exercise they’ll act out like this and it’s your job to make sure you’re helping them be more active. This behavior isn’t reserved for just puppies, although older dogs will learn how to control themselves better over the years, and even if you’ve already taken them out for their regular walk odds are you just need to make sure you’re giving a little more effort to either tire them out completely or get them moving around again.

Tilting Their Heads When You Talk to Them

Many people have a standard cartoonish, high-pitched voice they adopt when talking to dogs. And many dogs have an accompanying head tilt while you do this. The belief that this is a sign of confusion is only partly correct. While your dog isn’t necessarily confused, what they are doing as they tilt their heads is trying to decipher specific words.

See, dogs are accustomed to the regular pitch and tone in our voice and familiarize themselves with the meanings of certain words through this. However, when you change things up on them and take on that cartoonish voice, they’re now giving you their full attention as they try to pick out certain words, hoping to recognize one or two of them.


Think of a dog howling as their equivalent of crying. And while you tend to think this is annoying and might even order them to stop, reconsider how good you feel after just letting out a good cry for a minute or two. Sometimes that’s all it takes to start feeling better and the same goes for a dog howling at the moon, releasing whatever internal feelings, sorrow, and maybe even remorse that they’ve been carrying around. Howling is actually a good thing for them.


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