Top 15 Ways Dogs Communicate with Us

For 15,000 years, dogs have been considered man’s best friend. However, to build a healthy relationship and a strong bond with your furry friend, you need to understand how he communicates. Understanding how your dog communicates will ensure that you enjoy each other’s company and ensure you can better care for your canine friend. Dogs generally communicate with their human pals using their face and body language. Since their body language is entirely different from ours, it is crucial to know when your dog is trying to communicate with you and what exactly they are saying.

Here are the ways in which your dog is communicating with you:


Barking is perhaps the most common way that your dog communicates with you. However, your furry friend could be barking out of happiness as a way of alarming you of something or because they want to play. Most dogs will change their pitch to help you figure out what they are trying to tell you.

When the bark is low pitched, this could indicate that the canine is fearful or angry. A high pitch may be a sign that the dog wants you to come closer. Besides the pitch, you may also want to pay attention to the frequency of the bark. If you are throwing a toy or petting your dog, but he is still barking, they could be trying to alarm you of something. In case they bark while rolling over on their back, there is a good chance that they want a belly rub.


A growl is a distinct sound, very different from a bark, which both humans and other dogs will recognize. Growling is typically a warning sign that you should move away from the canine, leave them alone, or give them the space they want. Dogs will usually growl when they are frightened, angry, in pain, or due to possession aggression.

When approaching a growling dog and they are not your pet, you should proceed with caution. The growl is a signal that you need to give the dog space, and it should not be seen as playful behavior or confusion. In case you ignore the message that the canine is trying to communicate, the dog could bite or scratch you in a bid to protect himself. If you are a pet parent, you should try to establish the root cause of the behavior and find ways of addressing it.

Eye contact

Visual communication is a powerful and effective way that your dog will use to pass on information to you. Canines can also use eye contact to form social bonds with their human friends. Since different breeds seek eye contact differently, it would be important for you to not only understand the breed you own but also your individual pet.  

Generally, when your dog maintains constant eye contact with you, this is their way of showing their affection towards and trust in you. Considering that this is an endearing form of communication, the dog can also stare at you when they need your attention, food, or want you to get up. When your four-legged companion avoids eye contact, it is a sign that they may be sad, uncomfortable, scared, or cowering. This behavior could happen after you have scolded them harshly, or they have done something naughty.

Tail posture

Another widely noticeable form of dog communication is tail action. There is so much that your dog can tell you through the movement of their tail. However, tail movement varies by breed since some dogs are bred to be family pets while others are built to be hunters.

If your furry friend is wagging his tail so vigorously that his butt wiggles, it means he is excited to see you. Slow wagging is a sign that he is feeling cautious, while a stiff tail that is held high is an indication that the dog is alert. A low tail means that he is content, and a tail in between the legs is a cue that he is scared. If you notice that the dog’s tail is relaxed, there is a good chance that the canine is also relaxed. With the wide range of emotions that a dog’s tail can communicate, tail movement is a body language worth keeping an eye on.

Tilting their head

When your dog tilts their head, it could be because they are intrigued or experiencing something extraordinary. However, since there are many instances when your dog will tilt their head, it is difficult to determine the exact message that he is trying to communicate. This is why you should look at his other gestures and signals.

A dog may tilt its head for many reasons. While dogs have a keen sense of hearing, they will tilt their head when you are talking to them as they strive to hear better with a specific ear. The canines also know that humans find this gesture adorable and could use the posture to receive the positive reinforcement they crave. Also, since dogs empathize with their human pals, this could be their way of filtering out the words they are familiar with. Lastly, when your dog tilts their head to you, it might be because they want to have a better view since their muzzle blocks part of what they see.

Tongue flicking

Tongue flicking is another top communication cue that you should pay attention to. The information that your canine companion is trying to pass on when they flick their tongue out will depend on the situation. However, tongue flicks will generally be driven by anxiety, a wish to appease you, or a desire to avoid conflict. In order to understand the message, you should look at what is going on around your dog.

Just in the same way that you can read your dog’s body language, the canines can also read ours. When we appear to be upset, the dog can get worried or anxious and end up expressing themselves by flicking out their tongue. In social situations, your dog can become uncomfortable in response to another person’s or a dog’s discomfort. Since this is one of the ways that dogs use to give you valuable information, you should give him a signal to calm him down. However, excessive lip licking could indicate that something is causing pain in the canine’s mouth.

Belly exposure

Canine communication is usually clear and consistent, regardless of whether your furry friend is communicating with humans or other dogs. Atop face and tail movement, your dog will also use the rest of their body to convey silent messages.

When your furry friend rolls over and exposes his belly to you, this is an act of submission. Rolling over to show his belly and with their legs hoisted up leaves the dog physically vulnerable, making this a sign of great trust and submission. The canine could also be indicating that they want a belly rub or scratch, especially when the itch is on a hard-to-reach part of their body. If the dog goes belly up at your feet when you come back home, they are trying to catch your attention and let you know that they love you.


Dogs have a strong sense of smell. They rely on this sense of smell to grow familiar with their owners and identify strangers. However, dogs tend to sniff human crotches and could even poke their snout in your butt. While it may appear to be impolite behavior and could even embarrass you, they are simply looking for information about who or what you are.

When dogs sniff their owner, they get used to your scent and develop an immediate emotional and physical reaction that they crave. This reaction also helps to build the strong bond that your dog has with you. When the canine does this to a stranger, it is merely their way of saying hello and learning more about them. Smelling also helps a dog determine whether someone is healthy or ill, happy or aggressive, and even male or female.


Licking is a natural action for dogs, one that they can use to communicate with you. If you are to get the silent message that your canine companion is trying to convey, you should focus on the licking frequency. The message will also depend on whether the dog is licking you or parts of their body.

Although some people find this action gross, dogs like the taste of your salty skin and will lick you out of habit. Licking is also a sign of affection and could also be an effort to get you to respond with positive reinforcement such as a hug, belly rub, or petting. Canines will lick you to get a feeling of comfort and pleasure or as a way to relieve stress. However, if your dog is constantly licking himself, this could be an indication of boredom, anxiety, pain, or skin problems. Pay close attention to what your furry friend is trying to tell you to ensure you visit your vet when necessary.

Sneezing and yawning

While yawning is considered a sign of fatigue when it comes to people, the action has different meanings in the language of dogs. Since a yawn can also be just a normal yawn, you will have to look at the situation to determine whether your furry friend is trying to communicate with you.  

If your dog is sneezing or yawning unnecessarily, it may indicate that they are stressed or uncomfortable. This behavioral display is likely to happen when the dog is around new people or in a new environment, they have had enough, and their patience is running out. When the dog is waiting in the vet’s office, yawning may be a way of dealing with nervousness. If you are about to go for a walk or do something enjoyable, yawning may be a means of controlling enthusiasm for your four-legged friend. A yawn could be a sign that he is tired when he is stretched out on the bed or engaging in physical activities.  

Digging holes in the yard

There are certain dog breeds that are born diggers. However, digging is also a form of exercise and a common way for dogs to distract themselves. Regardless of the breed you own, you should seek to understand why your pet is digging holes in the yard and find ways of stopping him.

Digging is usually a sign that the dog has extra energy and needs more activity to help him expend it. However, your dog may also be digging because they are scared and are trying to escape from something. Your canine companion could be lacking certain minerals, digging for food, or digging to try to find water. During the hotter summer months, the dog can dig a hole to find a cool spot to escape the heat. When it is colder, they may be trying to protect themselves from the elements. The next time you find your dog digging, they could be hungry, scared, or just missed you.

Raising a paw

To interpret and understand canine body language, you need to observe and analyze the context. Taking time to understand the subtle signs that your dog gives you when they raise their paws will help you figure out what they are trying to communicate.

If your furry friend raises their paw and has other symptoms like shivering or whining, they could be injured. When a non-hunting breed does this, it could be a sign of emotional states such as fear, anxiety, or stress. A paw lift that is accompanied by a head tilt may be a sign that your dog is curious or anticipating something good that is about to happen. Lastly, your pet will raise its paw and place it on your knee when they want your attention. This will usually be followed by a tail wag and is likely to happen as your bind gets stronger.

Leaning against you

While canine language is usually clear, you will have to observe certain patterns if you are to correctly interpret what your dog is telling you. Gestures such as leaning against you can have several silent messages attached to them. You should take the situation into account in order to respond appropriately.

Since dogs cannot physically hug you, they will mostly lean against you when they want to show you affection. They may also do this when they are anxious or want you to go somewhere or do something. In case the dog is nervous about a new situation or place, leaning against you will still show that they look up to you for protection. Regardless of his reason for acting this way, make sure you give him the assurance and love that he needs.

Bringing things to you

Most people will see it as an invitation to play when a dog brings a ball, toy, or stick. While this could likely be the case, there are times when your dog will want to pass on a different message. The dog can do this to gain your attention, please you or release excess energy. Your canine could bring one of his favorite toys and drop it at your feet, giving it to you as a gift. This is their way of showing affection by sharing what they love with you.

The best way to determine what silent message your canine companion is trying to communicate would be to look at the timing. If they bring you a toy just after playtime, there is a good chance that they are showing affection. However, if it is almost time to play and your dog comes holding their favorite toy in their mouth, your pooch is asking you to play.

Play bow

There are certain gestures and signs that a good number of dog owners see from time to time. The play bow is a critical part of social interaction between the canines and their human friends. When your dog faces you and goes into a bow with their front legs on the ground and butt in the air, they are reminding you that it is playtime and inviting you to play. It is also their way of letting you know that whatever they are doing is fun and games.

If you are available and ready to engage in play, you should try to play bowing at him in return. This will make your dog’s day as they will be happy that you understand the message and are trying to speak their language. A friendly play bow will set the stage for exciting play and bonding time.

Although all breeds will use these forms of communication, you should remember that every dog is unique. You will have to understand your dog’s unique personality and the gestures he uses to communicate with you. This will make it easy for your pet to pass on a message and allow you to meet your dog’s needs.

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