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Dog Communication 101: Ten Dog Behaviors And Their Meaning

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Are you one of those “dog parents” who just wish you can really talk with your dog? Well we need not have them talk in human language, or vice versa. If we notice it enough, there are some dog behaviors that we usually see. These actions convey a message or some sort of meaning and all we need is to read in between them paws.

So we’ve listed ten dog behaviors and their interpretations compiled from experts such as Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan and animal behavior expert Julie Hecht. Check them out below:

1. Jumping up on you or humping your leg

Sometimes our dogs jump at us from excitement when we just come home, or because it is playtime. But other times, our dogs would jump on strangers, or even more embarrassingly, hump their leg! When a dog jumps or humps a person, it is usually to exert dominance and power to say they are the Alpha Dog. Usually we can differentiate between a playful jump and a dominating jump by how long they do it. If they jump prolongedly and really exerting force then that is dominance. Playful jumps on the other hand are quick. They uasually jump up, stand down and jump again all over and over again.

2. Turning away when we hug them 🙁
Doge: Ugh if only you weren't cute little human...

Doge: Ugh if only you weren’t cute little human…

Admit it, we humans love to hug to show our affection. We might have hugged and cuddled our dogs a number of times but have you ever noticed that during a hug, your dog sometimes tries to turn away, flee or look away? According to Hecht, hugging them actually stresses dogs. They might tolerate it because they love us. But if we want to show them we love them, a good ol’ tummy scratch or ear scratch will be much appreciated. As explained, dogs do not like feeling restricted and locking them up in our arms triggers some claustrophobia in them.

3. What ya staring at?
Doge: Stare into my eyes... dont break contact. Now give me that cheeseburger you're eating

Doge: Stare into my eyes… dont break contact. Now give me that cheeseburger you're eating

Have you ever noticed that our beloved doggies can really stare into our eyes for a really long time? Is it hypnotization? Are they reading our thoughts? Or maybe projecting theirs? Well the truth is, dogs are one of the most emotionally attuned animals. They sense emotions, and the mental state of a person. They easily empathize when we are sad, scared, happy, distressed etc. Staring at us is their way of feeling around what we feel, making that connection.

4. Licking us
Doge: Hmmm tastes like ice cream!

Source: Getty Images

Doge: Hmmm tastes like ice cream!

Our dogs probably spend a big portion of their day licking things. From licking themselves, to licking us, it is one of pretty common dog behaviors. A dog lick can mean different things though. When dogs lick themselves, they might be grooming, cleaning up, or making a wound heal. When they lick their humans, usually it is a sign of affection. The common target to convey affection is to lick our face or lips. If our dogs are being persistent in the licking, they might be trying to convey something like they want to pee, or they are hungry.

5. Tilting head to the side
Doge: Huh?

Doge: Huh?


Sometimes dogs do this superbly adorable gesture of tilting or cocking their head to the side. It’s as if they’re saying cluelessly “What you sayin’ human?”. And well you know what, that is actually not too far off. When they display this action, they are concentrating on hearing or even trying to pick up familiar verbal cues or commands like “Sit” “Heel” etc. They are also concentrating on the tone of our voice to pick up our mood.

6. Smelling our friends or guests
Doge: Smells like.. like you didn't bathe coming here!

Doge: Smells like.. like you didn’t bathe coming here!

Ever had a friend or a guest come over your home and your dogs can’t keep their noses off the visitor? The more a person is familiar to our dogs, the more they sniff them. You know, just taking in their scent because they missed them too. It’s like memorizing the scent of the people close to us because they like them too. 🙂

7. Scratching / digging at the floor
Doge: Those scratches... nope that ain't me!

Doge: Those scratches… nope that ain’t me!

Your dog might be the laziest, most spoiled indoor dog ever, but deep within their doggie DNA, they are still wildlings at heart. That is why, we can catch our doggos scratching at the floor as if digging a hole. Usually this action is done right before they relax at a spot. This can also be their way of spending pent up energy, and means they are bored.

8. Hiding behind your legs, leaning on your legs
Doge: I ain't those pups' papa. Hide me human.

Doge: I ain’t those pups’ papa. Hide me human.

Sometimes our dogs act like little cowards hiding behind their mama’s skirt. Especially in public places, or places they’ve been to for the first time, your dog might display this action. This is usual for anxious or shy dogs and hiding behind you is their way of having reassurance or comfort for whatever is upsetting them. Remember, to our dogs we are their rock, and we are their world.

9. Sitting on your feet / face / part of the body
Doge: Ahhh so comfy!

Doge: Ahhh so comfy!

This dog behavior has only one explanation and that is dominance. Your dog is the alpha of the pack and he is marking you as one of the members of his pack or his territory.

10. Thrashing the pillows and couch, or everything else actually
Doge: Nope wasn't me!

Source: Damn.com

Doge: Nope wasn’t me!

Ever came to a house where the pillows from your couch are all on the floor? Pillow stuffing everywhere? Couch thrashing (in some cases tissue thrashing from the bathroom), are signs of anxiety. When they are left home and they have all pent-up energy and anxiety from your return, they tend to take out the frustration on the poor pillows and couch. Or perhaps a slipper or shoe, anything thrashable, biteable and chewable really.

So next time your dog does something, pay attention. A bark may convey a thousand messages after all 🙂 Don’t forget to share this to your friends.

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