Have you ever stared at your dog and wondered what they were thinking? Or wished that your dog could just tell you why they won’t stop howling in the middle of the night? For some of us, understanding our dogs will always be a bit of a mystery. These creatures are fun and loyal and brave – but also goofy, weird, or downright odd at times. Luckily, there are some ways that you can understand your dog better. These 10 tricks will help you decode some of your dog’s hidden messages.
Tricks to Understanding Your Dog Better
1. Understand Your Dog’s Baseline
To understand when your dog is trying to tell you something, you first need to understand where they are coming from. What’s their baseline “normal” behavior? Watching for changes in this behavior is how you’ll know that they are trying to communicate. If you’ve just adopted your dog, it will take some time to understand them while you learn what is their “normal hanging out” behaviors. Spend as much time around them as you can learning this baseline first.
2. Understand How Your Dog Learns
To understand why your dog is responding to you in certain ways, you need to understand how your dog learns. Just like people, not all dogs learn the same way as other dogs. For example, dogs that are raised from birth around people tend to be more attentive to physical and verbal cues, whereas dogs that weren’t adopted right away from birth tend to be more reliant on their instincts. Try to figure out what your dog responds to, in order to understand why they are doing what they are doing.
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3. Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Tail
One of the most important things that helps you understand your dog is their body language. Your dog communicates through their body instead of speaking. One of their most important body language tools is their tail. If your dog’s tail is in its usual relaxed position, that generally means they are content. But if your dog’s tail suddenly becomes stiff and pointed, it’s a sign that they are checking something out and aren’t sure about it yet. If their tail gets tucked between their legs (and that’s not the tail’s usual position), it means they are feeling unsure or fearful.
4. Know the Signs of Changing Cognitive Process
If your dog is older, you need to know the signs of changing brain process to understand your dog. If your once active dog suddenly seems to sleep more often, or begins to avoid affection, it could be that they are getting older. Other signs of changing cognition include being confused, having bathroom accidents in the house, or suddenly becoming anxious, aggressive, or depressed.
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5. Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Ears and Eyes
Another way that your dog will “talk” to you is with their ears and eyes. If their ears perk up or flick forward, your dog is paying attention. If they lay their ears back on their head, it could be a sign of fear or aggression. If your dog’s eyes get very wide all of a sudden, they are trying to learn more about something. If a dog starts to avoid eye contact, they are stressed or scared about something.
6. Consider What You Are Subconsciously Communicating
Another way to understand your dog is to understand what it is that they are picking up from you. Your body language impacts the way dogs behave. Your eye contact, what your hands are doing, your body positioning, the way you move, and your overall energy can make your dog act differently. If you aren’t sure why your dog has suddenly become anxious or excited, check your own body language – you could be telling them something you weren’t aware of.
7. Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Paws
Your dog also “talks” to you with his paws. Pay attention to the way your dog is standing. A loose, relaxed stance with paws flat on the ground means your dog is relaxed and comfortable. If your dog is leaning forward onto their toes, they are likely very alert and trying to check something out. And if they are leaning forward, but their legs are stiff and their paws stay flat, they could be showing signs of aggression.
8. Keep an Eye on Your Dog’s Health
If you aren’t sure why your dog has been acting a certain way lately, pay attention to their health. Dogs will instinctually change their behavior if they are ill or injured to try to protect themselves.
9. Understand Common Situational Triggers
If you want to understand your dog almost before they do themselves, learn what situations commonly make your dog act a certain way. Does the dog park always make them excited? Does the vet always make them anxious? By learning how they react to common triggers, you’ll be able to anticipate their behavior and understand them better.
10. Understand the Basic Needs and Instincts of an Animal
Finally, to understand your dog better, keep in mind that your dog is an animal. Their base instincts to seek out food, to stay sheltered, and to fulfil what it is they think of as their purpose, will be the biggest motivators behind their behavior. If your dog is doing something strange that you don’t understand, consider if the behavior is driven by a basic need.
Keeping these things in mind can help you understand your dog better, and have a better bond.
About the author:
Ash Babariya is the co-creator of Simply For Dogs, and a life-long dog lover. Ash’s many adventures at the local dog park with her Boxers, Janice and Leroy, have turned her into the local “crazy dog lady”. She shares those adventures, as well as her research into the world of dogs, around the web to promote well-informed pet owning. Ash, Janice, and Leroy share a home in the Midwest with a brood of hens, all sorts of wild critters, and the occasional litter of puppies.
Have you tried any of these tricks to understanding your dog better? Share your thoughts and experiences below!