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Dog Speak: Know What Your Dog is Thinking

Your dog might not be able to speak, but it can tell you a lot about how it feels through body language.

Your dog is a master of communication if you just pay attention to its body language and listen to its verbal cues. Here are 10 emotions your dog might have and how it expresses them.


1. I want to play! Your dog will tell you when it is ready for a romp. Watch for it to put its front legs down with its hind in the air. This is called a play bow. Dogs in this position are signaling to their owners or other dogs that they want to play.

2. I'm lonely. Howling is usually a sign that your dog needs some attention. It can be lonely or feel insecure about not being in your presence (called separation anxiety). Howling is the way that canines, such as wolves, bring the pack together. It's your dog's way of trying to bring back the pack leader (which is hopefully you!).

3. I'm scared. A dog who is frightened will drop its ears and pull them back. In addition, it might open its eyes wider and tuck its tail between its legs. The combination of these body language positions might also be accompanied by growling. A scared dog can be a dangerous dog, so heed these signs.

4. I'm confused.  Like humans, a dog might tilt its head when it is perplexed about something. When a dog tilts its head, it changes the position of its head so that it might be better able to hear a clue to the confusion.

5. I'm loving this! If you've ever scratched a dog behind its ears or given it a tummy rub, it might shut its eyes and sit very still.  That's because this type of touch makes your pet feel happy and relaxed.

6. I'm interested. When a dog's ears are pricked upward, you know it's listening to you or watching what you are doing (for example, when you are eating something). Obviously dogs with downward hanging ears such as beagles or basset hounds won't have their long ears stand at attention. But the base of the ears, where they join the head, might be lifted to show interest.

7. I'm a little insecure. Sometimes when a dog licks its lips or nose or yawns, it is be a sign that it's feeling a little self conscious or awkward. Licking is a sign of submission, and this act might signal that it's feeling a tad insecure. Yawning is also a way to communicate anxiety. It might also be prone to submissive urination. Be aware of a dog exhibiting signs of insecurity.

8. I'm top dog. If one dog mounts another, it's a signal that it's trying to establish dominance over the other dog. (Even girl dogs do this.)

9. What's that smell? Dogs interpret the world through their noses. They might be interested in getting a closer sniff of something on the ground in a dog park or your clothing after you've been out (especially if you were with another dog or a cat). Dogs can also pick up scents in the air, so you might see your dog holding its head high and sniffing the air. It's just checking out what's around it.

10. I'm hot! A dog sweats through panting, so if your dog's tongue is out, it's most likely hot. Dogs are good at finding cool spots, such as laying in the shade outside or in the doorway to catch cool breezes inside. Make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean water to help it regulate its temperature.


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