Although canines can't speak our language, this in no way means that they don't possess their own style of sending us some pretty clear messages. Without a doubt, our cute fluff balls are clever communicators! Dogs utilize a variety of different means of conveying what they want to "say."
If you spot your little one gazing at you with a loose and relaxed expression on his furry face, then he may be feeling rather amiable at the moment. He perhaps may even be looking at you in the hopes that you'll give him a little bit of positive attention, whether you play fetch with him, rub his belly or anything else. If playtime is what he wants, be attentive to other useful hints, including a wagging tail, ears pointed upward and visible tongue.
Barking is another communication technique that some dogs use to receive attention, much to the dismay of many owners. If your doggie is barking and you can't figure out why, he may be doing it to get you to look his way for petting, playing, treats, mealtime or even going outside for a walk. The little guy wants something, and he surely knows how to get it.
When your dog is in pain, whether due to a wound or health condition, he may communicate it to you by vocalization -- think howling, whining and whimpering. Doggies utilize these types of vocalization also to convey other types of distress, including nervousness, stress and fear.
Dogs have quite a territorial streak, although it's only natural and normal. Your dog may communicate to someone invading his turf by engaging in a lot of loud and persistent barking. If you have a house guest who gets a little too close to your pet's bed, for example, prepare for a lot of ruckus. Aside from barking, he also may stake his claim by urine spraying, a classic territorial action in many animals -- yikes. These behaviors both serve to communicate essentially, "This area is mine, all mine. Back off or experience my wrath, human!"
In the realm of fear, dogs do a lot of communication through body language. Your dog may be showing you that he's afraid simply by keeping his mouth shut, for example. He also may continually pull his tongue out while in a heightened state of fear. Canines also subtly communicate fear with a crouched over posture, cowering, excessive and sudden shedding and flattened ears.
"Consider Yourself Warned"
Unfortunately, dogs aren't cuddly and sweet creatures 100 percent of the time. In fact, some dogs occasionally even get aggressive with people, so watch out and be very careful. Some warning signs of pure aggression are widened eyes, sharp and extended staring, bared teeth, standing upright, high tail, snarling, growling and curled lips. Leave a dog alone if he is in this mode, as he may physically attack. Never provoke an aggressive dog under any circumstances.
"I Love You"
If your dog wants to communicate to you that he loves and appreciates you, he may lick and "kiss" your face -- aww. He also may roll over onto his back to show you that he would really love a tummy rubbing session. He may simply put his head over your lap. Whether your dog follows you around faithfully throughout your home or literally can't take his eyes off of you, he's communicating a very important message to you: he loves you!
By Naomi Millburn
ASPCA: Reading Canine Body Postures
The Humane Society of the United States: Urine Marking - Why Dogs Mark Their Territory
ASPCA: Canine Body Language
Connecticut Humane Society: Decoding Body Language
Caring Hands Humane Society: Body Language of Dogs
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.