Dog Language – Can You Understand?

Photo: Cheryl G.

How Does Your Dog Tell You What He Wants?

Your dog is jumping or rolling over or wagging his tail; what do these actions mean?

Did you ever consider that your dog is trying to communicate with you. According to, “Just like people, dogs communicate using body language. Your dog is communicating with his entire body, not just his tail or his voice. If you want to know how he is feeling, you’ll need to learn to read your particular dog’s body language.” So what is the best way to figure out what they are saying?

In a study published in the Animal Cognition journal, scientists from the School of Environment and Life Sciences of the United Kingdom’s University of Salford presented their findings on gestures and signals that dogs use to communicate with humans. The researchers analyzed a total of 242 videos of 37 dogs who were filmed doing their daily routines.

The scientists discovered that the dogs used similar gestures to say what they want. They identified 47 potential gestures, but were only able to understand what 19 of them meant.

Some messages, such as wanting food, were shown through a variety of gestures, while some messages were shown through distinct methods. The dogs used different signals to ask for the same thing, but each one remained consistent with their own signals.

Because each dog is an individual and will express fear, aggression, stress or joy slightly differently, there are no hard and fast rules for interpreting dog body language. Tail wagging, for instance, can indicate several emotions. The important thing is to look at the entire body of the dog. With that said, here are some examples of dog body language and an explanation of what they might mean.

Here’s a quick dog-to-human dictionary to help you translate your pup’s desires:

Scratch Me

  • Gently biting a person’s arm
  • Lifting a back leg while lying on the side
  • Lifting a paw and placing it on a person
  • Licking the person or object
  • Making short shuffles on the ground while rolling over
  • Pressing the nose into a person or object
  • Rolling over in front of a person
  • Rubbing the head while leaning against a person

Feed Me

  • Holding a paw in the air while in sitting position
  • Standing on hind legs
  • Turning the head from side to side, looking at the human and an object
  • Using the head and snout to move a person’s hand to its body
  • Using the mouth to throw a toy forward

Play With Me

  • Diving headfirst under a person or object
  • Reaching a paw toward an object
  • Touching a person with a paw briefly
  • Wiggling the body under a person or object

Open The Door For Me

  • Jumping up and down in the same location
  • Lifting the front paws off the ground and placing them on a person or object

We Want to Hear from You!


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