Some days, it feels like dogs can read our minds. They nuzzle us when we’re sad or get pumped at walk time. Other days, the language barrier between our species is starker than ever. We say, “Come inside,” and they refuse. Or we say, “No chewing,” and they dig into our shoes anyway. In an effort to better understand our canine family members, we’ve rounded up 45 ways your dog is actually communicating with you. Understanding dog body language is the first step in knowing how to respond. Our advice? Be observant and patient—you’re not a mind reader either.
While navigating this extensive list, remember your goal is to be a translator for your pup. To do this, you have to look at your dog’s entire body and listen to all the sounds she makes. This advice comes from the Center for Shelter Dogs at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. They break down dog communication (both verbal and physical) into five categories: fearful, aggressive, anxious, relaxed and excited. Most canine communication combines more than one of these categories. So, to understand what’s really going on with Sadie, look at the whole picture, including the context of the situation.
Context is almost more important than what your dog is doing. If you’re playing tug-of-war and she growls, it’s probably playful (excited). If you’re walking in a new neighborhood and she growls, she may sense something dangerous (fearful). Always factor context into your interpretation of your dog’s communication.