Our team at DhohOo is all about providing the best care for pets. We want every owner to truly love and appreciate their pets. To help build that understanding, we provide essential tips and tricks that let owners build a meaningful, happy, and long-lasting relationship with their pets.
You love your dog. Your dog loves you. But it can be hard to get that point across. We’ve compiled this guide on communicating with dogs to help you speak and understand dog language.
Understanding Dogs: The First Step in Communicating With Dogs
Communication is a two-way street; you have to understand your dogs first before you can make them understand you.
Tail movement is perhaps the most widely used form of dog communication by most pet owners. We all recognize the energetic and joyful tail wagging when your dog is excited to see you. But the reality is that a dog’s tail can communicate a range of other emotions. A tail wag isn’t always a friendly invite for cuddles or pets. You need to look at the dog’s ears and body stiffness as well when determining its mood.
That being said, here are a few common scenarios:
- A very low or tucked tail means submission and fear. The dog is on alert.
- A curled tail may mean confidence or dominance or be a sign of a relaxed dog.
- A straight, stiff tail means a dog on high alert and tracking a threat (or prey).
Ears also indicate how a dog is feeling. Perked ears mean that a dog is very curious and highly focused. Pinned back ears signal that the dog is uncomfortable, while droopy ears mean the dog is in a state of submission.
Constant eye contact from your dog is their way of showing their love and trust for you. Sort of like a subtle ‘I love you.’ If your dog is avoiding eye contact, it may be a sign that they’re uncomfortable, scared, or feeling guilty after doing something bad.
Dogs tend to flick their tongues as a response to anxiety and a way to avoid conflict with the owner if they think you are upset with them. Dogs can certainly read our body language and will get anxious or worried if we seem upset.
Freezing in Motion
Freezing in the middle of an action is a common way of communicating that they are suspicious of what's happening and want to be left alone. So, it’s usually just best to give your dog their space if you see them freeze during an action.
Getting Your Dog to Understand You
Use Your Voice
Dogs can’t speak for themselves, but they can certainly understand what you’re saying. Research suggests that dogs can learn over 165 words with correct training. Even more important than that, they learn the tone in which you say things.
We’ve found that using high-pitched, sweet sounding, or excited tones, rather than low-pitched, booming voices, are more effective when communicating with dogs. We would also advise against constantly yelling “No” at your dog if you’re upset with their behavior. You may get their attention, but it won’t change their behavior because you’re not giving them any information about what they did wrong.
Instead of using "No", just use the basic training cues to inform your dog about the behavior you would prefer instead. For example, if your dog is trying to eat your pizza, tell them to "leave it," which they know means to move away from said object. This way, your dog knows what behaviors you prefer instead of their current ones.
Make Use of Body Language
Body language is integral when you’re communicating with dogs. Your dog can often misinterpret certain body movements or language, so it's your job to avoid any unintentional signals.
Some examples include:
- Yawning can indicate that you’re distressed to your dog, causing them to move away from you. We would suggest that you cover your yawn around your dog if they don’t respond well to the action.
- Taking off your arms and gaze from your dog at the same time can lead them to think that you don’t want to touch them anymore and they may become sad.
- Staring directly in the eyes of your dog can be viewed as a threat. Avoid it if your dog becomes anxious and starts looking away.
- Some dogs do not like being patted directly on the head. Avoid this action for strange dogs that you don’t know.
Communicating With Dogs Through Leashes
Leashes can be an extremely effective non-verbal communication tool between you and your dog. You would leave a leash loose if you're relaxed, tug on it more if you're in a hurry, and tighten it if you're tense. This way, your dog learns subtle cues regarding how you're feeling and how it should react.
Our final advice to you is— be mindful of your tone whenever you're speaking with your dog. Use a smile and a happy tone when appreciating your dog and an angry tone when correcting them if they did something wrong.
Be deliberate in your communications and use non-verbal cues to your advantage when communicating with dogs. Speak to dogs in their language and you’ll be surprised at how clever they are!
Find out more about this in our collection.