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How Do Dogs Communicate

When your favorite pooch comes running up to you covered in mud with his tail wagging, you may wonder if he’s trying to tell you something. In this case he’s probably telling you he found some great dirt to play in and that you should come and join him. But what if your dogs wants to tell you something about their wellbeing or health?

Breeds Doberman Pinscher resting on grass tongue out
This Doberman Pinscher is telling you that's everything's good - alert, relaxed, chilling out

We may often find ourselves wondering if dogs talk to each other, and if they do, is it all conversations about where the best smells are, or about how they just got a new bone to gnaw on at home? We’ll never know what they’re saying, but make no mistake – dogs talk to each other!

Their ways of communicating with each other and with humans are very different to ours, of course. You might think you can’t articulate a huge amount when all you have are a few woofs, a yelp and a growl. But with a mixture of these sounds, a portfolio of pongs, and a lot of body language, you can get the message across.

All dogs communicate with other dogs and their owners using sound, smell and body language. They might want to tell you they need to be let outside to go to the toilet, or they might be trying to tell you they are not feeling very well. It is quite easy to tell how a dog is feeling, just as it is easy to tell how a child is feeling by simply observing their general expressions.

Clues To How Your Dog is Feeling

A healthy, happy dog will always wag his tail, and will have a general lift of energy about him. An unhappy or depressed dog might hold his tail between his legs or act shy and submissive. Dogs will hold their ears back to express submission or pleasure, as well as when they are ready to attack something. When dogs are alert or listening, their ears will be erect. When they want to greet you they will wag their tails and their ears will prick up, but when they are feeling threatened – by the approach of a strange dog, for example – they might lower their tail and ears.

Dog cocks leg urinating at roadside
This message is strictly for other dogs - it means a combination of "Fido Was Here" and "This is mine!"

Watch out for direct eye contact between dogs, because this usually means they want to challenge each other, and a fight might break out. Before they attack, dogs will often bare their teeth or snarl at the opposition to prove their dominance. When dogs want to play they drop their body to the ground with their hind legs still upright. They might bark or jump around to further express their willingness to play.

Dogs sniffing each other
Strictly for the dogs - every sniff tells a story

Dogs also communicate with their incredible sense of smell. Most male dogs will urinate a lot when out on a walk so that they can leave their scent for other dogs to come across. The pheromones in dogs’ urine allows them to mark their territories. Dogs will also smell each other, and often humans too, so that they can get to know the other’s scent. This will often include a sniff of the other dog's bottom, which we’re sure glad isn’t something we humans have to do!

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