20 dog behaviors and what they really mean

Dogs are highly social animals and have a rich body language they use to great effect. We can eavesdrop on what a dog is really trying to tell us by knowing a little bit about how dogs behave when they are relaxed, happy, nervous, frustrated, angry, and so on.

Want to know what your dog actually tells you? Then check out these 20 dog behaviors and what they really mean (and enjoy the cute pics!):

#1. Barking and more barking

By their very nature, dogs bark to raise an alarm of possible danger. It also serves as a means of communication among canines. However, when dogs bark incessantly, it may mean a whole lot of things. There are those who seem to bark ceaselessly due to separation anxiety, health issues, boredom, lack of exercise -- or your dog simply wants to get your attention.

#2. Bowing

Every dog owner may have already noticed that dogs bow when they want to play. Typically that involves their bodies wiggling and their tails wagging. Of course, if you want to engage in a game with your pet dog, you also have to do some human version of a play bow. That means you’ll have to quickly crouch into a squat and if your dog bows, then it’s play time!

#3. The greeting stretch

When you come home from work or school and your dog greets you with a stretch, that means that he is saying hello to you. Yes, that’s right! Contrary to what most people believe, your dog didn’t just wake up from a short nap or doing puppy yoga. Next time your puppy greets you with a stretch, it would be great to give him a little pat or a greeting too.

#4. Sniffing butts

It may seem a little awkward, but in the dog’s world, sniffing butts is a way of saying, “Hello, nice to meet you.” Why the sniffing? According to studies, a dog’s ability to smell is 10,000 times better than human beings. And the same is a way for the dogs to get to know each other.

#5. Running at you

Two things should be considered when your dogs come running at you. First, they are just being playful. Second, they are going to attack you. Well, the latter case rarely applies to dog owners with their own pets running at them. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that when a dog approaches looking very aggressive, you have to turn away.

On the other hand, if your furry buddy looks playful, you may want to consider bending your knee. Dogs’ playful behavior can be very rough and when they come running at you, you might easily be knocked over.

#6. Showing dominance

When dogs act aggressively against other animals, you can as well expect a fight especially when no sign of retaliation is apparent from either side. In this photo, it is clear that the Dalmatian is in danger as the Border Collie is bolting forward showing his dominance.

#7. Finding a comfy position

Ever noticed your furry best friend walking in a circle before lying down in their bed? Well, that’s one curious ritual believed by Behaviorists as having its inception from dog’s ancestors living in the wild as they walk around a spot to pat down the leaves to create a nice and relaxing sleeping spot.

#8. Around and around we go

If you had a tail, wouldn’t you chase it? Seriously though, this amusing behavior is your dog’s way of expending excess energy. However, when your dog does this behavior constantly, this might be a sign of more serious condition including anal gland problems, flea allergy dermatitis or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

#9. I will rip it to shreds

Pretty much like a child growing up, dogs will play and will want to chew on toys and each and every object they encounter as a way of relieving the pain of a new set of teeth coming in. For fully grown dogs still chewing your couch cushion or shoes, it could be a sign of separation anxiety or boredom.

#10. Howling at the moon

It is said that wolves howl to send messages to their pack members. Well, this seems to be reasonable for wolves living in the wild where they have to send messages to their members who might be far away.

But for domesticated canines, what does howling mean? According to some Behaviorists, howling is a behavior passed on from their ancestral cousins. It can be a means of communication, but mostly it is instinctive and plain rewarding for dogs.

#11. Panting

Panting is a common behavior when pups get excited, in pain, anxious, stressed or scared. Dogs sweat through the pads on their feet and they expel body heat through their mouth when they pant. Basically, panting is the dog’s way of regulating body temperature.

#12. Don’t come any closer!

See that look on his face? That means “I mean business, so don’t cross me.” Pretty scary, right? When your dog transforms and his entire body is stiff, tail up in the air with head and neck raised high and back, that means that your dog is very suHispanicious and is ready to take on a fight. Remember not to grab the dog’s collar as you may sustain a dog bite.

#13. Dog biting

Dog biting occurs when your buddy is reacting in aggression, fear or nervousness. It is thus very important to know your dog’s body language to prevent a dog bite from ever happening. Sometimes, dogs suddenly bite when they are being possessive of their food or area or when they are frightened or in pain. Their ears are typically pinned back and the fur along their back may stand up. When you see this kind of behavior, do not engage, or handle them with utmost care.

#14. Humpity dumpity

Dogs masturbate. That’s basically the entire point of dogs humping against toys or just about anything. However, not all people realize that masturbating is true of all dogs, whether your dog is male or female, or even if they’ve been spayed or neutered.

However, when your dogs do this every time especially when playing with other pups, this might be a sign of under-socialization. To address this problem, plan more doggy play-dates so they can get used to the way they’re supposed to play.

#15. I came to dig, dig, dig …

You just can’t take away digging from dogs. It’s actually embedded deep in their DNA. They naturally dig to hide food or to uncover food such as small rodents.

#16. Nervous

When your dog’s ears are backward and flat against his head, this could probably mean that they are nervous or shy. Generally, the more forward your dog’s ears are, the more confident he is. Thus, the further back and pinned their ears are against his head, the more fearful he is.

#17. Hypnotic stare

If your dog stares at you all gooey-eyed, this means that he loves you! But, don’t go forcing your dog to stare at you. The may not act affectionate at all. Sometimes, dogs also stare at their owners because they need some help with something or they want their owners to do something for them.

#18. Growling at mailman / delivery guy / strangers

Don’t be surprised if your dog barks at strangers, mailman or basically any stranger coming into your home. This only means that they are being territorial and protective.

#19. Tail between their legs

It is actually a generally acknowledged fact that when your dog has his tails behind its tail, this means that he is afraid, worried or under stress.

#20. Going nuts

It might seem a bit exaggerated, but when your pup goes nuts then he is probably trying to tell you that she needs more activity in her life. If she chews the furniture, runs around for countless hours and act all crazy, you have to consider taking your pup outside for a walk. Remember that exercise is also an important part of your pup’s wellness.

  1. 5 years ago

    My dog randomly stands up on her hind legs and takes a few steps! Even though I never taught her that! Why does she do it? Not that I'm worried it's just weird lol.

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