Learn to Speak Dog: What Is Fido Really Trying to Tell You?



Just because dogs canโ€™t speak doesn't mean they donโ€™t communicate. Anyone who has a dog can tell you just how clever they can be when it comes to getting their point across. Still, many pet parents aren't always certain what their dog is trying to tell them. Whether it be a strange bark or unusual body language, the cues they give can be misinterpreted.

For a better idea of what your dog is trying to tell you, here is some common "dog speak."

RELATED STORY: Reading Dog Body Language

1. Tail WaggingDog-Tail-Blog
  • Broad, sweeping wags at medium height = Happy, playful behavior

  • High, tight, rigid wagging (almost vibrating) = Dominant ย or aggressive behavior

  • Pointing straight back = Paying attention

  • Low wagging = Confusion (especially when their head is cocked)

  • Between the legs = Scared, nervous, threatened behavior

RELATED STORY: Decoding Dog Tail Wagging

2. Ear PositionDog-Ears-Blog
  • Erect ears = Outgoing behavior (either side of the mood spectrum -- erect ears can mean anything from playful and attentive to dominant and aggressive)

  • Ears back = Submissive behaviors -- the tighter the ears are to the head, the more submissive they are being. Ears flat back are a good sign your dog feels like they are in trouble or threatened. Remember, just because they are being submissive does not mean they are safe to approach. Many dogs are just as likely to strike out of fear as out of aggression.

3. Mouth

  • Open, tongue out = Happy, playful behavior

  • Open, baring teeth = Aggressive (especially when muzzle is pulled back)

  • Baring teeth with head down = Submissive, especially if they poke out their tongue to lick you

4. Posture

  • Upright, chest out = Dominant behavior

  • Walking low or cowering = Submissive or scared

  • Front legs low, butt up = Playful behavior

5. Voice

  • Barking = Attention seeking behavior (motivated by anything, whether it be fear, dominance, aggression, or something else -- look to other cues to understand the root of the barking)

  • Whining = Bored or anxious behavior, could be due to a feeling of neglect

  • Growling = Aggressive or threatened behavior

Talking to Dogs: Pro Tips

  • โ€œBaby-talkโ€ is not the best way to communicate with your dog. While we see it as a cute or loving tone, dogs associate higher register vocalizations with the sound of prey animals. So when you speak to them with baby talk, you end up sounding like food.

  • Yawning is a great icebreaker in dog-speak, in that it shows them that you are relaxed. If you yawn at your dog and they return the gesture, they are being calm and inviting, letting you know that it is safe to approach them. Yawning, along with slow blinking, is a great way to let new dogs know they can let their guard down around you.

RELATED STORY: 8 Things You Didn't Know About How to Talk to Your DogSubscribe to The Wet Nose Pressย to get the latest on health news, recalls of faulty or dangerous products and pet foods, and more!

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