What makes a dog man’s best friend is how well they seem to understand us. Dogs communicate with us all the time but without words or conversation. Instead they use body language, facial expressions and some vocalizations to let us know what they feel and think. Being able to pick up on these signals will ultimately help improve your relationship.
How do dogs "talk to us"?
Dogs are social animals that often live in groups and have an effective method of non-verbal communication. To make living together more effective, dogs remember and learn about each group member and work to avoid conflicts by being predictable and following the canine social rules.
As a member of your family, dogs expect clear signals from the humans that make up their social group. Dogs rely on routine and consistent responses from us during interactions. Predictability makes things easier for them to understand, while change and inconsistency can create anxiety and confusion. When a dog is anxious, stressed or insecure, they send you many non-verbal signals to indicate their stress level. When first stressed or scared, dogs may try to run away, cower or hide. As their level of anxiety and fear increases, their body language increases as well to include a more aggressive posture, teeth baring, laid back ears or growling. Frightened, threatened or punished dogs may escalate to teeth snapping or finally even biting. Check out this great diagram on dog's and body language from Dr. Sophia Yin.
Dogs need us to be consistent in our communication with them. They don't know what we are saying, but they can recognize our body language and tone of voice. Calm, consistent pet owners who reward dogs for good behavior (while ignoring - not punishing - bad behaviors) often have the best relationships with their pets. We've listed some great resources on the bottom of this page for more information and resources to help you better understand your dog.
A dog’s sensory world
Canine social communication
Social communication is a two way street. Dogs need to be able to understand the signals from humans, and in return expect their signals to be understood as well. But without words, some canine social signals are very subtle.
Your dog may be uncomfortable if you see him:
Another common canine body posture is one that is often called the “guilty” look. In this instance the dog may take the avoidance to the extreme-really averting their eyes, lowering their body and licking their lips. The dog is actually not feeling guilty, but in dog language is saying “I see you are angry-please don’t hurt me”. Our mistake is assuming they know WHY we are angry. But remember that they don't understand our words, they hear our angry tone and see our tense and angry body.
When your dog does not react as expected to your verbal cues, remember that they don't understand what you want them to do. They aren't intentionally disobedient, they may be distracted, anxious or frightened and their behavior will reflect their emotions.
If a dog is misunderstood, confused or anxious because of unclear human-dog communication, they can become stressed.
Loneliness - separation (staying alone at home or in a boarding kennel)
Adoption - settling into a new home
Puppy training and socialization
Veterinary visits and hospitalization
Loud noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms
Exposure to new situations and environments
*These may also be signs of disease conditions. Please consult your veterinarian with any changes in behavior.
If you dog is showing any of these signs then Adaptil® may help. Depending on the severity of the situation, additional behavioral modifications may also be needed. Seek advice from a qualified professional.
Additional resources for more information on behavior and training:
The Adaptil Collar is activated by body heat and releases the calming pheromone constantly, even when the dog is outside....
Scientific studies* have shown that using Adaptil helps to reduce the signs of stress in dogs and puppies exposed to...