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Dog Communication

Posted by Awesome Doggies

Ask any dog owner (or their groomer!) and they will say that their dog does not have any problem communicating their needs, wants and desires. While we can’t have a conversation with our beloved pups using human language, scientists who study dog behavior tell us that dogs do use a wide range of sounds, facial expressions, and gestures to communicate with other dogs as well as humans.

Understanding What Your Dog is Communicating


To understand any language you need to understand the fundamentals. To understand dog communication, you must get to their roots. Genetic research has shown that today’s domesticated dogs have evolved from grey wolves that live in family groups called packs. In these packs the wolves use a variety of noises and gestures to communicate and these forms of communication have been passed along to their descendants.

Some of their communication is obvious. If we see a dog snarling, chances are good that it is not agreeable to the situation. If it is wagging its tail, we can assume it is happy. But what else do dogs say?  

I’m the Boss

In a pack, someone has to be top dog. In order to express dominance, a dog will stand stiff-legged and tall. The ears are held erect and forward while the tail is held vertically with the hackles (erectile hairs along the back) slightly raised.

Ok, You Are the Boss

A dog will communicate submission by drawing back the lips and ears, lowering the body, or rolling over and exposing its stomach and neck.


Tail Tales

Beyond a happy wag, the tail communicates a lot about what a dog wants you to know. A slow wag communicates uncertainty; a fast wag speaks excitement but can also signal aggression. A lowered tail can mean submission, fear, or affection.

All Ears

When a dog’s ears are perky and forward, it is showing interest. When the ears are slightly back, the dog is communicating submission. Ears that are held firmly back show hostility.

Showing Teeth

When a dog curls its lips back to show teeth, it’s time to pay attention. Teeth baring is actually an unconscious reflex signaling an urge to bite. This is why it sometimes looks like a dog intends to snap when offered a treat.

I’m Not Necessarily Bored or Tired

While a yawn might mean that your dog is tired or bored, a it might be communicating more. Yawns could also mean the dog is anxious or stressed. A yawn could be saying it is no threat to another dog acting aggressively to them, or a dominate dog might yawn to show a fearful dog it also means no harm.

For more information about the way dogs communicate, check out the ASPCA's article on Canine Body Language.

Taking a few moments to learn a few important elements in dog communication can help avoid misunderstanding, help your pet navigate human society, and deepen your bond with your treasured friend. As professional dog groomers, we at Awesome Doggies are trained to understand dog communication in order to make their grooming experience more enjoyable and stress-free. Give us a call to find out more about our services!

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