Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or a longtime trainer like Cesar Millan, there’s always something new you can learn to help you better understand your pets. In this article, we break down the most common doggie behaviors and what they really mean for you to figure out exactly what your dog might be trying to tell you! So grab your furry friend and give this a look; we’re sure it’s going to make a lot of tails wag!
Watch Out If You See A Dog Acting Aggressive Like This
The most common way to tell that a dog feels threatened, and may lash out to protect itself, is if the dog is growling. By baring their teeth, snarling and growling at you, a dog is trying to show you how dangerous they are in order to protect themselves. They will also usually pull their ears back at this point into a more defensive position. So, if a dog is responding to you like this, make sure to give them some space.
Some dogs will growl while playing, which is perfectly normal! But, make sure you check with a dog’s owner about their normal behaviors before assuming a dog acting like this wants to roll around.
What Does It Mean When Dogs Start Howling At The Moon
While some breeds are more known for it than others (Huskies and Hounds come to mind), howling is the trait our dogs exhibit that most reminds us of the ancestral wolves they were descended from. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what howling connotes. However, there are a few strong hypotheses for why they do it. Some researchers believe dogs do it to communicate, while others think they do it to express pleasure or displeasure at other noises in the environment.
In order for a dog to start howling, there usually needs to be a trigger. This is usually another loud noise, something like a train whistle or a high-pitched singer in a song.
If Your Dogs Sleeps Like This, They Might Be Telling You Something
If you see a dog sleeping with their legs out to the side, or curled up underneath them, you might think they look adorable. But, in this position, a dog can’t actually reach REM sleep. This is because this position stops them from fully relaxing their muscles, so it’s much harder for them to fall into a deep sleep. A dog sleeping like this is therefore probably just taking a cat nap or something like that.
If you have a gentle, shy dog who is scared of a lot of different things, this will probably be the position you find them sleeping in more often than not.
What The Classic Puppy Dog Eyes Really Mean
Puppy dog eyes are a common behavior to see from dogs, so much so that kids sometimes will try to replicate it! Most people associate this behavior with sadness, which is why they’ll reward their pets with a treat if they see this. It’s an attempt to cheer the pet up. However, if your dog is giving you puppy dog eyes, all he’s saying is that he loves you and he trusts you.
It’s not the worst thing in the world to reward your dog with a treat in this situation. But, don’t make it a habit, because then your dog will start making those eyes every time they get hungry.
Waiting For Mom And Dad To Say OK
A lot of the time, dogs will look up at their owners before running off to chase a ball, or going up to greet a friend. If they do this, it’s because they recognize that you’re the one in charge. So, they don’t want to upset you by doing something that you’re not going to like. That’s why they’ll look at you for approval, and then go off and enjoy themselves after they get your blessing.
If your dog does this fairly regularly, it’s a great sign that you guys have an incredible relationship. It shows that your dog trusts you enough to ask for something when they want instead of just taking it.
What It Means When Your Dog Squints At You
You might see this behavior on a really sassy dog that wants to prove a point. When a dog squints at you, or blinks repeatedly (when they’re not looking into the sun that is), it means that they’re feeling a little attention-starved. When your dog does this it means they want you to play with them or watch what they’re doing. So, you better drop what you’re doing and give Fido a little attention.
You might see your dog flashing these squinty eyes if you’ve been out at work all day and then are returning home way too late.
Possible Signs Your Dog Is Overheating
A dog that is sleeping on their back with their legs in the air is probably very comfortable. However, if a dog is sleeping on their back and their legs are crossed over their bodies, there’s a chance the dog is overheating. This is a position they get in to get air on their bellies and cool down, but if it’s a very hot day and you see a dog lying like this you’re going to want to get them water ASAP.
Just because dogs have a higher heat tolerance than humans, it doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous for them. So, make sure not to leave your dogs in a hot car, or let them play for too long outside during the summer.
Is Your Dog Staring For A Particular Reason?
Similar to the behavior dogs exhibit when they squint, if a dog stares at you it means that they also want attention. Just like how humans have different love languages and ways of communicating their desires, so do dogs. So, it will immensely help your relationship with your pet if you study the way they react to different triggers and the way they ask you for things when they need them.
We understand how it can be creepy for an animal to just be staring at you all the time, too. But, your dog is just telling you that they love you, so try to cut them a little bit of slack.
Why They’re Panting And Smiling
If you ever see a dog panting, and it almost looks like they’re smiling, chances are they actually are! Dogs know how to smile, and when they’re enjoying themselves and getting the attention they deserve they’ll do just that. A lot of the time this looks like a dog with its tongue hanging out of its mouth, who is observing you closely and waiting for your cues. So, just keep playing with them and letting them enjoy!
Dogs, like kids, sometimes don’t know when to stop. So, if your dog is having a lot of fun, but you’re worried they might get overtired, be sure to pull them aside and make them take a break to drink some water.
What Happens When It’s More Than Staring?
A dog that stares at you, as we discussed, wants some of your attention. But, if a dog is really looking at you intently, with love in its eyes, then they’re waiting for you to tell them what to do. This is a sign of unfettered affection, and your dog telling you that they’ll follow whatever you tell them. It’s a really sweet way that our dogs can show us some unconditional love.
This behavior is also largely situational. If something stressful is going on, your dog might look at you to see if they should be worried. If you’re just relaxing, they might look at you to ask if it would be alright for them to go to sleep.
Be Wary If A Dog Is Lying Down And Growling
The position you see the dog sitting in in that picture is one of the most dangerous positions you can find a dog in. This pose means that the dog is feeling afraid, and is getting ready to pounce. By getting low down and showing their teeth, a dog is not only trying to scare away whatever is threatening them, but they’re also protecting their internal organs, and preparing to launch an attack should the need arise.
Never approach a dog that is in a lying position and growling like this one. If you need to, stay a safe distance away and wait for the dog to approach you once they’ve calmed down.
A Curious, But Relaxed Look
If you see a dog standing with their mouth open, and its ears on alert, but its tail is down and relaxed, this is a great, great sign. It means that a dog is curious, and not feeling threatened in any way. It’s a very neutral emotion where the dog is ready to analyze the world around them and figure out what’s going on. So, if you’re going to approach a strange dog, try to do it when they’re in this position.
If a stray dog is in this kind of mood, it will probably approach you. Then, you can get comfortable, and start trying to figure out where the dog’s owners are.
Ears Forward, Tail Pointed, Something Exciting Is Going To Happen
Dogs have a very keen sense of smell, as well as an ability to detect danger where human beings can’t. But, if there’s no danger present, and the environment is just a little strange for your dog, chances are they’ll respond like this. Their ears will be forward, so that they can listen better to their environment. And, their tail will be pointed straight back, letting you know that they’re curious, and enjoying the adventure.
This is great body language to look for while your dog is playing with other dogs, or exploring a new park. You want them to be curious, but also safe and still aware of any danger.
When They’re Letting That Tongue Hang Loose
It would’ve made for a great American Idol episode if someone had made a rendition of that famous song about “Tongues on the ground.” But, since they didn’t, our dogs are just going to have to pick up the slack. If you notice that your dog is sitting there with their tongue sticking out of their mouth, chances are they’re really enjoying themselves. Panting like that is a sign that a dog is hot, but also enjoying themselves.
We always say a panting dog is a happy dog. And, even if that’s not true, a panting dog will later turn into a tired dog, which will turn into a sleeping dog, and then everybody wins anyway.
What Those Good Rising Barks Mean
As is the case for most dogs, their bark is going to be worse than their bite. But, if you’re listening to that bark and you hear an inflection in the dog’s voice at the end, chances are they’re in a pretty playful mood! This is called a rising bark, and dogs use it when they want to play, or are having a good time. If you hear two dogs barking at each other they’ll probably be using these types of noises!
Humans can also imitate this rising bark to excite some dogs and launch them into play mode! But, if you want your pooch to calm down, make sure to teach them to right commands for when to roll it back.
What Sleeping Like A Dead Bug Tells Us
If your dog sleeps like a dead bug (this is also called the crazy legs position), it probably means that they’re having some wonderful dreams, and are as comfortable as could be. When a dog is feeling vulnerable, they protect their stomachs. So, a dog sleeping like this is letting everyone around them know that they’ve got nothing to worry about. They feel completely safe in their environment, and they’re feeling very laid back.
We’ve tried sleeping like this before, but for some reason, it’s not as comfortable as the dogs make it look. We just prefer sleeping with our legs on the ground, we guess.
What Are They Sniffing For?
We’ve seen dogs greet each other by sniffing each other’s butts before. That’s normal, and a common practice for dogs. But, have you ever seen them do it to a person? It happens pretty often! This behavior is called scanning and helps dogs acquaint themselves with one another, or one of us, by associating the smell with the specific person carrying it. Just don’t start trying this on your human friends, we have a feeling they might not like it so much.
With this in mind, this is also why it helps to reach out a closed hand to a new dog. They will be able to smell you and get more comfortable before coming closer.
The Side Sleeper
This is how most human beings sleep, so it’s no surprise that this is how most dogs sleep as well. A dog on their side is exposed, and a bit vulnerable, but they’re also able to get up into attack mode very quickly. So, it’s not a position that connotes danger or anything like that. If you see a dog napping on their side, chances are they just really needed to get some sleep.
Some dogs have a habit of running in their dreams while they’re sleeping in this position. So, keep an eye on your pooch if they fall asleep like this and see if you notice anything.
How To Welcome A New Family Member
As big a change as it might be for you to introduce a new animal to your house, it is just as big a change for that animal as well. So, you’re going to want to make sure the environment is already ready to receive this pet. You also are going to want to keep an eye on the animal over the span of their first week to make sure that they’re settling in alright and getting comfortable.
If you see your new puppy sleeping in this position (which we discussed up above), then it means they’re starting to get comfortable in their new home, and you’re doing a great job!
Where Does A Dog’s Sweat Come From?
If you as a human being go on a run on a hot day, chances are you’re going to start sweating out of pores you didn’t even know existed. However, dogs don’t have this opportunity. They do not secrete sweat from their skin like human beings do. Likewise, they also do not sweat from their tongues as some people suggested. In actuality, when a dog sweats, most of it is secreted through the dog’s paws!
This is one of the reasons that dogs love kiddie pools so much, especially during the summer. It allows them to submerge one of the hottest parts of their body, and in turn cool down everything else.
Sleeping On Their Bellies
This is how you’ll see puppies sleeping most of the time. It happens a lot when a dog is playing, lies down for a second to rest, and just crashes. As we said, you’ll see puppies sleeping like this a lot. It’s an adorable position that shows you a dog was truly tired before falling asleep, and as they say, you might as well let that sleeping dog lie. Wouldn’t want to wake Superman up if you’re not ready for playtime.
A lot of people sleep like this too, and it’s easy to see why. After a long day, there are few better feelings than just letting go and collapsing onto your face for some Zs.
Curled Up Like A Little Fox
If a dog is cold, chances are they’re going to sleep in a position that conserves as much heat as possible. So, most of the time, they will curl up in a ball, tuck their sensitive little paws against their warm belly, and wrap their tail around themselves like a blanket. Cold weather breeds like Siberian Huskies prefer to sleep like this a lot of the time. We also call this the fox position because this is exactly how foxes sleep!
Another benefit of this sleeping position for dogs is that it protects their internal organs. Lets remember that dogs are descended from wolves, and still have a lot of those wild tendencies, even if we don’t always notice them.
Sleeping Back To Back
Dogs won’t just sleep anywhere, and they won’t fall asleep around just anyone. It’s important that all animals feel safe in their environments, otherwise, they won’t be able to get comfortable. For example, you probably wouldn’t go and sleep cuddled up with a complete stranger, right? The same goes for dogs. If they’re going to fall asleep with or against somebody, it’ll probably be a member of that dog’s pack, and someone they completely trust.
If you have a dog that naps all the time, but he won’t sleep when someone new is in the house, this is exactly the reason. Dogs are not going to let their guards down if people are there who they’re not comfortable with.
What A Happy Little Face Means
Nonverbal communication is super important when it comes to being a pet owner. Sure, we’ve seen people messing around with those new peg boards that let dogs talk, but the classical way to raise your pets is to read their behaviors and take care of business accordingly. Thankfully, if your dog is flashing you a face like this, it means you’ve already got everything all set. This is a happy, content face that shows that your pet is excited to be around you.
All dogs are different, so some will wag their tails when happy, some will smile, and other still will spin in circles!
Doggie Noses Are Like Fingerprints
They always say that no two people are alike, but with so many of us on the planet, there’s got to be a few who are pretty similar. That being said, everyone’s fingerprints are still always going to be different. And, just like people with their fingerprints, every dog’s noseprint is going to be different! With this, plus the fact that dogs can tell each other apart by their scents, the nose might be a dog’s most important organ!
This is such a cute picture showing off the unique pattern on this chocolate labrador’s nose. He looks a little grumpy about having his picture taken though.
Not All Dogs Are The Same, Even To Their Siblings
Just like people vary so differently from one to another, from different shaped noses and ears to different heights and weights, dogs are the same way. Even if you take two dogs out of the same litter, they’re probably going to be just as wildly different from one another as two human siblings would be. Also, dogs as a breed have a few interesting features that differ from humans that you might never have noticed.
For example, did you know that dogs have Henry’s pockets in their ears? They also have a third eyelid (like snakes) that moves from side to side occasionally.
Sleeping Patterns Will Change Over Time
It’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s routines, just like any other member of your family. If your partner, or one of your children, all of a sudden started oversleeping a lot, then that would be a sign that maybe something is wrong. So, if you notice that one of your dogs has all of a sudden started sleeping much more, it might be a good idea to take a trip down to the vet.
As a rule, puppies will play hard, sleep hard, and sleep often. As dogs get older, they will start to sleep less and develop a more normal routine.
We Love When They Get The Zoomies
This isn’t just a dog behavior, but something we’ve seen from cats, horses, donkeys, and all other manner of pets before too. The zoomies is the term we use for the burst of energy an animal gets, usually seemingly for no reason. They’ll go at a full sprint running around the field, or the room, until all of a sudden stopping, which can be confusing if you’ve never seen anything like that before.
If your dog gets the zoomies, it’s just a sign that they’re healthy and blowing off some energy. You might even want to think about joining them and playing along for a few minutes until they get too tired to keep going!