It’s a dream most of us have: what would our pets say to us if they could speak our language?
We all know our four-legged friends have moods. Just like us, their body language can show fear, happiness, love, anxiety, anger, sadness and disgust—but there are some more subtle signs that can convey just a little bit more.
If a dog gives you attention, obviously they like you. But if they’re like my dogs and give you constant attention—they absolutely adore you.
Mine, for instance, often won’t even let me shower or bath alone. They will sit at the door and cry until I let them in; and it’s not uncommon for one or both of them to actually jump in with me (problematic when both dogs are over 40kg).
If your furry friend showers you with (sometimes annoying) attention, take a step back and recognise it for what it is: love. And you are their entire world.
They say eyes are the windows to the soul—and it’s not really any different with dogs! While their interactions can be a little more subtle, constant eye contact from your dog is a way of showing their trust and affection for you.
Avoiding eye contact, however, is often a sign of being uncomfortable, scared—or when they’ve done something wrong (like chewed up your favourite shoes, again).
Most pet owners are familiar with our animal companions touching us repeatedly to get our attention. If your pup pats you with their paw, you can almost guarantee they want to play. The same goes for if they’re diving headfirst, or reaching towards an object of interest. They can also stretch and crouch, raising their behinds into the air, as a clear signal that it’s play time now. If you’ve ever had a pet slowly inch a toy closer to your feet to convince you to endlessly play fetch, you’ll understand this well.
We all know the absolute joy of coming home and seeing our best pal’s tail vigorously wagging to see us—but the speed of this wag can tell us a lot about how our furry friends are feeling. For instance, a slow wag can mean your dog is feeling cautious, while a stiff tail can mean they’re on high alert.
An unusual sneeze or yawn can often mean your pup is uncomfortable or stressed. It can also just mean they’re tired (or confusingly enough, even content). You know your pet better than anyone though—it’s not too difficult to tell which is which! (Hint: look at their other body language and the situation).
A head tilt is probably one of the cutest things our pets can do when we’re talking to them. Though dogs certainly have better hearing than us, they’re not too great at finding out where sound comes from—so the head tilt really is a sign your pet is confused, thinking, and trying to identify what that sound was, where it came from, and if it’s from you!
If your pet freezes suddenly, it can communicate they’re feeling uncertain and want to be left alone. You might see this behaviour when they’re walking with a treat and suddenly see you. It’s best to respect their privacy here—they’ll come to you when they want attention.
One of the more obvious ones, but there are many different kinds of noises and vocalisations that dogs use to communicate with us (and other dogs).
A lot of what we hear is actually learned behaviour. Barking, crying and whining, for instance, are common traits because dogs were used as alarms and protection. Dogs rarely whine at each other—and even young pups quickly learn to get our attention through whimpering.
Tongue flicks are often a way to tell if your dog is anxious and stressed. Again, there are different types of lick flicks they can do—a softer one can signal contentedness after an interaction with us, an exaggerated one can signal excitement, but a tongue flick, combined with other clear signs of discomfort, can be a clear way the dog is stressed, and we need to stop pushing them past their level of comfort (unless it’s absolutely necessary—like a vet visit).
I’ve always wondered why my dogs would blink and wink at me. Are they letting me in on some kind of private joke they’re about to do?
Of course, dogs will blink naturally to moisten their eyes (like us). But intentional blinking is a clear signal your dog is friendly. Consider the scenario when your dog meets another unfriendly dog: they would stare, unblinking, at the potential danger—whereas a soft blink can signal a peaceful, friendly vibe. It can also mean they’re comfortable.
It’s pretty common knowledge that raised ears mean a dog is alert and listening. Ears pulled at half-mast can show us they’re relaxed and calm, while extremely dropped ears can signal nerves, fear and submission. If your dog is moving their ears, they’re probably trying to decode what sounds are in there present situation, and how they feel about it.
Dogs only actually smile around humans—it’s a learned behaviour, and signals happiness, as well as wanting to play!