How Do Dogs Communicate?

Apart from barking, there are many other ways that dogs use to express themselves. Most of the members of the canine world (but not all) use the same methods. The expressions of one dog will be recognized by another of another breed easily. While some forms of dog communication are easy for humans to understand, other need time, patience, and context. Some of the ways that dogs use to communicate include:

1. Signals to create distance – these are used by dogs to keep strangers away and at bay. Some of these signals include barking, growling, snapping, showing teeth, barking, and growling.

2. Signals to create calm – dogs make these types of calls to show friendliness, solve problems, and express obedience and politeness.

3. Forms of body language – sometimes, dogs put forth some non-verbal gestures as a show of defense or fear. Some of the examples are like taking flight, backing up, crouching, and putting their tails between their legs. Others like shaking, peeing, and scratching communicates the stress levels of the dog.

The bullets above communicate the language of dogs. When the dog needs to express themselves, they will use any of the mentioned ways. If you’re a dog enthusiast, learning about these things will make it easy for you to interact with dogs, regardless of the breed.

This read will explain to you everything you need to know regarding how dogs communicate. You will understand how they ‘talk’ to each other and how they talk to us. Keep reading.

How Dogs Communicate With Each Other (Smells And Scents)

Like humans, dogs communicate differently. They combine sounds (not words, because they don’t talk) with action to talk about their feelings. This read is a guide to make you the perfect communicator when it comes to dogs. It is essential to know the message that dogs pick out when they are smelling and sniffing.

This section will focus on the scent detail because of two things. Firstly, it is the least understood canine communication signal, and secondly, it is central to how a dog perceives the world. Let’s sniff our way through.

A Dog’s Scent

As mentioned, very few people – even dog experts – understand how the olfactory senses of the dog work. The first thing you need to have in mind is that a dog’s sense of smell is more powerful than any other senses. Actually, dogs are better smellers, if I may so say when compared to humans.

Let me put things into perspective. While humans have 6 million olfactory receptors, 300 million is the figure for dogs. This means that dogs pick smells about 50 times more than we do. The overall implication is that the sense of smell is crucial to the life of a dog.

To learn more about each other, dogs will engage their senses of smell. When a dog picks out the scent of another, they will know its sex, status, and even age. All these are essential details that will help the dog relate with another. When dogs smell their humans, it also tells them how they (the humans) feel.

Focus Area – The Urine

Is it in your mind that a dog’s urine can be compared to human fingerprints in terms of scents? This means that they are excellent communication items as they help dogs to get information around them.

So, if a dog pissed in a place – whether a tree, an electric pole, a bush, or a fire hydrant – another dog will be able to pick that information. It is as if one dog leaves a mark for another to pick.

If a female dog is in heat, it produces unique smells that only male dogs can pick out even from miles away. The urine of a bitch has pheromones that will tell a male that she is ready to get it on. So, you can take this home: a dog’s urine is very significant and probably the most potent way of communication.

Beyond The Dog’s Urine

Let’s put the urine aside and look at other items that are important in communication. Anal glands, stools, and saliva also have information and can transmit important info. You can now get why your dog will stop and smell some dog poop it finds and why it smells the backside of another dog.

Dogs And Smells: The Utility Value

This subsection will give you the details about dogs and how they use smell to put across a message. Concretely asking, what items do they communicate between the smells? See the answers that have been given below:

1. Territory Marking 

As we have already seen, urine has a unique scent. One dog’s urine will smell differently from the other, even though the owners may not notice. In that case, a dog uses its urine to marks its territory. A dog that has neither been spayed nor neutered will spray its urine around the house where they leave. This will prevent other dogs from invading and will make the dog feel at home.

This explains why a dog will urinate everywhere when you move into a new place. Because they come in as strangers, they will have to mark their area as a way of settling in.

2. Rank Determination 

Dogs, especially those that live in packs, operate with hierarchy. That is where the language of an alpha male comes in. So, with the existence of a hierarchy, there is a need for ranks to be established. When a dog smells another, they get a full profile. In the smelly business, they get to know the most dominant dog.

Typically, the subordinate dog will get smelled by the most dominant one. Dogs engage in this kind of communication to draw lines between themselves without having to fight about it.

3. Greetings’ Passing

Scents and smelling them are like greetings. With one hi-moment, a dog picks out the A to Z of a dog.

How To Forge Excellent Communication Between You And Your Dog

We use one powerful means of communication – language. Apart from words, we also talk to each other through non-verbal communications like posture and facial expression. Many times, we use gestures to tell people what we are thinking.

While canine communication heavily relies upon non-verbal, dogs can still pick out the messages we give using our words. Using hand gestures, hugs, and touches are excellent methods of talking to our furry friends.

Let us now pay attention to how we can communicate better with our dogs.

Getting To Know Your Dog And How It Communicates To You

Although humans and dogs have been relating for the longest time (at least 10000 years), the dog still uses the communication methods it inherited from the wolf. Primarily, dogs use their bodies to communicate, and they engage every part of them to express their emotional state and wishes. When people – like veterinary clinicians and owners – recognize how canines communicate, they pick out its messages.

Ears down, tail wiggled, eyes sad – those are some of the many ways that canines worldwide use to talk. If you have it in mind that body language is not essential, you need to think twice. Many trainers use hand signals to teach basic things like sitting instead of using words only.

Up to this point in the read, we have identified that non-verbal cues are important to dogs. When we work our ways around them, we get to better our relationship with the furry ones.

Language Signs Picked From The Dog’s Body

Our instincts help us to know the mood that our dogs are currently in. If you spend a lot of time with the dog, you will – inadvertently and unconsciously – pick out all the messages it sends you from the way its body is. Because of that, you know if the dog is anxious, angry, relaxed, or sad.

The following table captures some body language signs that open you up to the dog’s feelings and exact situation.

Part Or Shape Of Dog’s BodyThe Emotions Of Focus
PostureLying down; standing up, relaxedFirmnessLying lowStiffly solid
TailWagging; flying upSlow wagsCoiled underStraight up; rigid
EarsNormalRelaxed; upDownSharper
MouthSlightly closed; openLightly set apart; closed completelyPanting slowlyTeeth showing; lips pulled back
EyesPupil dilation (regular); focusedSmaller pupilsWidely openStaring

Now, we will take a look at some of the positions and behaviors that dogs may take up from time to time. It is good to clearly put this information out here because some people misinterpret what their dogs communicate to them. Here are the most common signals that dog give:


Your dog’s chest will be low, which naturally takes the head down. Its rear part and tail will remain up while its front legs are a little spread out towards where you are. This signal should communicate to you that the dog wishes to play.

The Swinging Of The Hips

A swing of the hips is, like bowing, a sign that your pup needs to play. The dog will approach you and then place its rear against you to show that it trusts you. Sometimes, the dog could just be wanting a scratch.

Raising Of The Paw

This is an attention-seeking signal where a dog will put its paw up for its owner to see. They may be wanting attention in terms of play or just making a request.

Recent studies have it that there are about 19 gestures that our furry little friends use to talk to us. The good news is that they are easy to learn and memorize. Once you grasp them, you will be cautious and keen about what the dog is trying to say. Any gesture that you know about the dog should be a chance for you to develop a deeper bond with it.

Signs Of A Stressed Dog

To ensure that the bond between you and the dog is strong, you need to know when the dog feels lowly and stressed. Because of human-dog misunderstandings, yawning is thought to be a way for the dog to say that it is tired and wants to go to bed. On the contrary, yawns are stress markers – something may have happened and caused the dog a lot of stress.

The same thing goes for the licking of lips. A dog licks its lips as a way of coping with stress. If you watch children interacting with little ones, you will see them invading the dog’s private space and what you see after is a continued licking of lips.

The one thing that communicates a dog’s ultimate stress is the shaking of its full body. When something new presents itself into the dog’s environment, it will first shake the experience off as a sign of resetting.

What you should take him from this portion is that stressed dogs need a lot of praise. When we motivate them during their low moments, they will become more connected to us.

The Vocalizations Made By A Dog

It doesn’t need you to be an expert in Cynology (the study of canines) to know how vital vocal communications are to dogs. Although no words accompany the vocalization, they express themselves effectively. As mentioned elsewhere in this read, some of the vocalizations include whining, howling, growling, barking, and yelping.

The one thing you should have in mind is that not all growls are aggressive, and neither are all barks alarming. If the dog wants to warn you about a potential threat, it will sound like a frequent and short bark followed by some growling.

If the dog barks at a high pitch and then follows it up with a soft growl, it may be communicating that it wants to play. If you focus on the dog and understand the vocalization within its context, you will get the full meaning of what the dog is trying to say.

Talking To Your Pup – How Can You Properly And Effectively Communicate To Your Dog?

Since you know the methods that the dog uses to talk to you, this is the best time for you to get some answers. How exactly does one speak dog, you know? How does a dog owner or enthusiast learn better communication with their dog?

Speaking from a logical point of view, communicating properly with your dog is the foundation of having a satisfying relationship. You will have a better, greater chance of having a more relaxed, symbiotic relationship with the dog. That means that you and the dog will enjoy fun times together, and you will teach it more tricks. The best way to effectively communicate with your dog is by following how its brain operates.

Thus, the absolute, paramount thing to go for is listening and observation. The communication between a dog and a human is more than the commands – they are not interpreted in a vacuum. Because the dog’s brain is not wired to understand human language, and he can never process the word that you use. However, you can clear things up, and the pup will, although slowly, pick up the communication you are trying to deliver.

So, instead of giving a lot of energy and attention to words (also known as commands), focus on your gestures, voice tone, and body language.

Using Your Body Language

For those who like spending most of their time around dogs, you will agree that commands are completely functionless if the commander (who is you) does not gesture properly or takes a wrong standing posture. So, before you open your mouth to dish out a command, you need to focus on how your body is set up. First, ensure that you are calm because that will calm the dog down and help it to focus.

As you put your expectations to the test – those of wanting the dog to get you – you should avoid looking like a threat. On the flip side, do not be too easy on the dog during training. You need to stamp your authority as an alpha male (or female) so that the dog composes itself to listen to you.


Anyone good at dog training should know that a good trainer needs to use gestures to make each command easy to learn. The dog will focus on what you do and how you move, and often, it will connect a particular hand movement with words like sit or high five.

Instead of using the auditory commands, you can get the dog to focus on the gestures you make. What you need to ensure is that they watch you closely without losing focus. If that’s your style, you need to ensure that the training is happening in a quiet place.

If you’re into dog training, you will realize that there are different ways to give your dog a clear hand and help communicate with it.

Also, if you’re waiting for the dog to something and they seem unresponsive to your vocal commands, try using gestures. You have better chances communicating with the dog if you use non-verbal language. During the entire training time, take your dog as a toddler that needs a lot of attention. So, for a second or a minute, try giving them an explanation without using words.

The take-home from this part is that you should combine both verbal commands and gestures. A study supports that, and it would help the dog better in terms of sharpening his aptitude.

Using Words On Our Furry Friends

Although canines lack super skills in terms of comprehension, they still can understand when we talk to them. A behaviorist notes that the brain of a dog can take up 165 words. He also captures that not only do our words influence the communication, but also our tones. Actually, it is more of the non-verbal items that matter more than the words your give.

Canines Have A Better Response To Voices That Have High Pitches

You know what a high-pitched voice is – it sounds sweet, more like the sound you use on a baby. Studies say that those baby voices get dogs’ attention better than the other ones, you know, the deeper, quieter voices. So, using a serious tone is unlikely to give you the best results.

A high-pitched voice will prove useful when you are in a noisy place. When you switch to that soft one, the dog will react better.

On the flip side, the baby voice can be used when your taking your canine through recall training. If you use an excited voice, the dog is likely to come your way very fast.

Vocal Commands

As implied throughout the read, word (or vocal commands, formally) are the items that make communication between dogs and humans. As captured not long ago, 165 is the number of words that dogs can understand. But as mentioned, the syllables are not the only triggers that affect the dog’s brain – the clarity of your voice and tone play a significant role. If you get a proper approach to teaching your dog, it will love and always look forward to pleasing you.

As something important to the process of man-dog communication, you need to take your dog through the basic commands. If you want your pooch to sit on your command, the two of you should have an excellent communicational foundation.

The look and sit commands will help to ground your communicational relationship with the dog. If the dog wraps its head around those basics, moving to the more complex ones will be easy.

Apart from understanding each other, commands help you and your dog spend lots of stress-free and carefree times together.

Every time you engage the dog in vocal commands, ensure that you are concise, clear, and consistent. When you repeat the same word using the same tone and tying all that up with a gesture, the dog will have a better chance at learning from you. If you mix tones or words, the dog will end up confused and not convinced.

As you build up the relationship you already have with the dog, remember always to be patient. With that virtue, you will give the canine room to make mistakes and learn.

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