Anyone who owns a dog knows that at times, their beloved pooches can “almost talk to them” and if the truth be known, our canine friends are very capable of doing so. However, it may not be the same way we “humans” communicate, but rather a doggy language all of their very own. Understanding your dog's language means you will be able to communicate so much better with them and this includes when you're training them to do the things you would like them to do and stop doing the things you don't want them to get up to.
Dogs and humans boast being able to communicate by using sound, body language and their sense of smell. However, we humans have become very adept at using sound, in fact so much so that body language is very often forgotten and the same can be said of our sense of smell. With dogs, it's the opposite, their sense of smell is one of the most important ways they have of communicating with the world. Our canine friends produce certain chemicals called pheromones and these are present in their urine, faeces, saliva as well as other body secretions.
People too produce pheromones but have a habit of disguising them with other scents which they find to be more appealing. However, even our natural body odour plays an important role in how we communicate with each other. With dogs, their pheromones are the all-important trade mark of each individual, and it contains loads of information about many things which includes their health, age, confidence, social and sexual status and more. These pheromones can get a response from another dog in record time as well as establish something a little more long term which establishes a dog either as submissive or dominant by nature.
There are several scent glands that produce pheromones with the most important ones being a dog's anal glands. You may have noticed that dogs greet each other by smelling each other's behinds – some dogs do this to people too, which can prove to be a little embarrassing but it's their way of trying to establish who people are just as they would with dogs.
Dogs are often seen rubbing their bums along the ground too which is their way of emptying their anal glands. All too often the glands tend to get blocked which can cause an infection which in turn is very uncomfortable for a dog to have to live with.
A dog's urine also contains lots of pheromones which is why they love to cock a leg on just about everything they come across. They are leaving information about themselves for other dogs to pick up on when they walk by. Dogs can lift a leg many times when they are out on a walk, very often peeing when there's nothing left to come out! A dog does this to cover up another dog's scent – it's their way of establishing their mark as the dominant dog and letting the whole neighbourhood know about it.
Bitches like to make their mark by scenting around the place too but never quite as much as their male counterparts. The only exception to this would be just before a bitch is about to come on heat – then she will wee in lots of places to announce to the world that she is just about to come into season. This can all kick off around 10 days before she actually comes into season.
If you have just got a puppy, you may notice they will do their business in one spot and then keep going back to the same place to have another “accident”. This is their way of scenting their ground which is very unwelcome if they happen to do it on your best rug or carpet. You need to teach puppy to do their business on some paper and they place this outside so they get the message and go outside to mark their territory.
Dog's also use body language to communicate. You may have noticed that an “underdog” will tuck their tail under their backsides – it's their way of attempting to hide their pheromones whereas a “top dog” will hold their tail nice and high announcing who they are, and then proceed to wag their tail so they spread as much information about themselves to any other dog that's around.
A lot of people misinterpret tail wagging which is understandable, it is after all one of the accepted actions a dog does that we know means a dog is friendly and not aggressive. However, in some instances tail wagging is the first sign that maybe there's going to be a conflict. This could be due to apprehension and uncertainty at a situation a dog finds themselves in. Aggressive wags of the tails tend to be shorter and stiffer whereas friendly ones are more of a high sweeping motion from side to side.
It takes puppies quite a while to learn how to wag their tails, anything from 20 to 50 days in fact, but this does rather depend on the breed. When they first start suckling off mum, they don't wag their tails but after a while they start to wag them when they know it's feeding time. Experts explain this behaviour as the pups displaying their pleasure at the fact they are about to feed, but also they are just starting to get their heads around rank and competition in their pack.
A confident dog will always stand tall whereas a more submissive character will make themselves as small as they can. When a dog stares unblinkingly, they are challenging anything and everything around them. The one that out stares another dog will always be the winner. However, a dog that just wants an easy life, will revert back to being a puppy.
One of the weakest ways a dog naturally communicates is through sound. We accept that when a dog barks, it's because they want to raise an alarm, and a barking dog is often perceived as an aggressive character, although this is not always the case. Dogs bark to let the pack know about any dangers and this includes letting owners know about things that are going on around them.
When a dog growls, this is usually a warning signal to keep away. However, growling and barking can also be signals that a dog wants to play and if you know your dog, you'll easily recognise the difference. When it comes to howling, this is a different story altogether and for our lovely domestic canine friends, this is normally how they express their displeasure at being left on their own.
Dogs have lots of other noises in their vocabulary which includes a cry, a whine and a whimper as well as a yelp and even a moan. Puppies soon pick up on these noises as a way to draw their owner's attention to them and if they get what they want each time they whine or whimper, the chances are they will continue to do this right through to a ripe old age – so it's best to gently nip this in the bud when they are nice and young.
Learning to understand “doggy talk” helps you communicate with your dog. It also helps you recognise why they behave in certain ways. Once you have a better understanding of why your beloved pooch does the things they do, you can deal with them so much better – the good, the bad and the ugly behaviour that is!