The language of dogs

Basically to interpret the language of dogs it is necessary to take into account two elements: vocalizations or vocal expressions and gesticulations, which can be through facial or body mimicry.

At present, interpreting the language of dogs can be complicated, especially in certain breeds in which given their morphology or phenotype it is difficult to observe certain expressions or those in which the tail or ears are imputed, which limit their communication capacity. .

Vocal expressions

It is obvious that dogs do not speak, however, the vocal expressions or sounds emitted are highly variable and reveal data related to their behavior and emotional situations of the animal.

Barking: it can reveal a signal of alarm and aggressiveness , also a call for attention to its owner, claiming some pretense (food, games, etc.). The barking is the result of the domestication of the dog, since the wild ones do not usually emit this type of vocalizations. A loud bark denotes security, a weak bark is an indicator of an insecure dog.

Howl: characteristic of wolves and wild dogs, especially when the alpha individual has been lost or as a delimitation of its territory. In domestic dogs this behavior can also manifest itself, especially when faced with certain sounds, such as music, vehicle sirens, etc. In the language of dogs and especially in canine ethology this behavior is called “ allelomimetic behavior ”.

Sneezing: sometimes they do it as a warning sign before another adversary, it is not that the animal has some type of pathology.

Moan: it is a vocalization that is usually accompanied in a low tone and, in the language of dogs, expresses fear or fear of an event.

It is a fairly common language in puppies when they feel alone and need to be accompanied to feel more secure (help). Adults can also emit these vocalizations, although not as frequent.

Screaming: is a momentary expression, for example as a result of a stomp, or when they suffer pain. This sound is also common when faced with stimuli that cause fear or fear, it also communicates submission. It is generally more accentuated in puppies. In adults it is frequent in dogs of low esteem, or those that present pain or some type of disease .

Grunting: in the language of dogs it is associated with a signal related to aggressiveness, if this in turn shows teeth it is an indicator that the threat is aggravated. Grunting is not always related to aggressiveness, sometimes they are part of the ritual of the game, especially if you have a toy and in which we must be cautious, as it can be a signal that communicates to the owner your reluctance to have the car removed. game object. Actually the danger of these vocalizations is more accentuated when they are performed in front of strangers.

Grunts can also be associated with territoriality, especially if the limits of its territory are exceeded, to avoid confrontations with a strange dog it is better to leave the place. Sometimes this language of dogs is also performed with upright ears, without fixed gaze and even with the tail in a low position, it is an indicator of insecurity so it can also show aggressive qualities.

In general, in unknown dogs, when they show aggressive qualities, it is best to move away from the canid, slowly, without running, mainly to prevent it from chasing us, as it would in the wild and given the hierarchical status characteristic of dogs.

In neutral territory, if he develops these behaviors, they can inhibit aggressiveness if he considers us as dominant, but if he feels cornered, he will possibly bite.

In the language of dogs, erect ears express attention to an event, if they are accompanied by growls, fixed gaze, tense and stretched body (in order to enlarge it) and a raised tail in front of an adversary, it communicates a signal of dominance and aggressiveness, with What if it is towards strangers, it is not advisable to stare at it, it is better to withdraw your gaze and develop a calm body posture, that way you will not interpret it as a challenge.

Body movements are also part of the language of dogs

Leaning with the belly up: it is a sign of submission so it is not considered the leader of the pack, therefore it will not show aggressive qualities.

Body: the usual one of each breed , relaxed and with its characteristic posture, eyes attentive to its owner, it is an indicator of a dog without aggressiveness. Body in tension, leaning forward with a certain tendency to enlarge it, the dog tries to impose itself on its adversary. Shrunken or hunched body denotes submission and insecurity.

Touch with the paw: it is a call for attention or claim towards something that is to your liking, sometimes this behavior in the language of dogs is interpreted as a sign of dominance before your hierarchical superior.

Touching with the muzzle: they can develop behaviors of bringing their snout closer to some part of the body of its owner, head, throat, arms, in general, they are signals of submission or friendly dog, it can also be interpreted as a call for attention in the face of any appetite that at that time it demands. This call to action can also be made, instead of with the muzzle, with the back of the body that will direct towards the legs of its owner.

Front part of the body inclined and lower part raised: it is a clear signal to communicate to your priority your intention to play.

Tail movements : tail movements are varied and reflect quite expressive, which is why different behaviors associated with the language of dogs can be interpreted, although certain experts disagree on the interpretation of certain movements:

  • High tail:
  • Low tail:
  • Between the legs:fear, fear.
  • Tail in motion: itis perhaps the most difficult language of dogs to understand, rapid lateral movements suggest a state of excitement and joy. In certain breeds of hunting dogs it involves concentration, aggression, since this movement is motivated by their venal instincts. If the movement is downwards, it implies submission, although if it is upwards and not very excited it is a sign of dominance.

That a dog keeps its tail down and a sign of submission is appreciated does not mean that it cannot attack, I can do it especially if it is afraid, in these cases, it is also important to observe the facial gesture, especially the movement of the lips, ears and his look.

Movement of the legs: in certain breeds, especially hunting breeds, they have a certain tendency to move one of the front legs forward, it is associated, from the point of view of the language of dogs, with a special attention of the canid to be able to carry out a certain action.

Other gestures of dominance are rigid and upright legs, which is a demonstration of highlighting the body, unlike bent limbs that are associated with submission.

Bristle the hair on the back: in the language of dogs it can be interpreted in different ways, since some behaviors are a sign of dominance, in others submission, although partially. Bristling the body hair of the dorsal area means for the dog to appear to be larger in front of its opponent.

Facial gestures or facial mimicry

Eyelids: blinking is an indicator of submission and an extroverted dog at the same time. Semi-closed eyelids is also interpreted in the language of dogs as a peaceful gesture.

Lips: lips without puckering, mouth open, means that the dog is comfortable and relaxed. If they appear puckered, it is a sign of aggressiveness, either in the face of a dominant behavior (lips pursed forward) or submission (lips pursed back). In the event that he also grunts, extreme precautions must be taken, as he can take action and start a fight.

Yawning is also a revealing fact of his behavior, he does it when he is tired, it is also associated as a sign of submission or peaceful dog. Just like when they chew or lick the air.

The gaze: if the canid stares into the eyes of a stranger with a rigid body, he is challenging us, if that gaze is accompanied by a relaxed bodily behavior, especially towards his master, he is basically trying to detect his mood. An elusive or downcast look reveals submission.

Dilated pupils with open eyes and a disproportionate gaze is associated with fear. Less dilated is an indicator of submission. Eyes with change of focus and deviant movements is associated with imposition. If the gaze is fixed or focused, it expresses security and dominance. The eyes, to interpret their meaning, are correlated with other gestures, that is, position of the ears, movement of the lips and movements of the body, as we can see in this study related to the language of dogs.

Ears: erect, forward is a sign of dominance and security, tilted back means the opposite, that is, insecurity and submission. Often these movements are performed alternately, in this case, in the language of dogs it is considered that the canid expresses the two mood states indicated above.

Licking: it is a behavior that they perform towards the owner, during the breeding season , even with other dogs, they are peaceful behaviors that are reflected in the animal.

Other behaviors related to the language of dogs

Imitate the gesture of riding: for many authors it is a sign of dominance, since it is also performed by puppies without reaching sexual maturity, even female specimens.

Chasing his tail: called “tail chasing”, is a behavior motivated by stress in the dog.

Escape from the place:  especially those canids who do not want to challenge the adversary, do not accept their submission, so the best way to get out of trouble is to leave the place of conflict.

Holding the snout and neck of another dog with the mouth: dominance behavior.

Getting on top of other dogs: it is a common behavior among dogs, it is interpreted in the language of dogs as a sign of dominance.

Urinate without marking signs: this is what is called submission urination, which is why it is an indicator of a submissive dog, very common in puppies, in adults if it is very repeated, more than the language of dogs it is considered a pathology.


by Abdullah Sam
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