How Dogs Communicate

Hands on experience will be your best educator. It takes time and practice to notice the subtleties in dog reactions. There are things you’re going to want to look at and become very familiar with. Basically, dogs have 3 ways to communicate:

Body signals – ears, lips/mouth, body alignment, tension, weight distribution, eyes, focus, piloerectors (hair), movement or lack of movement, tail carriage

Vocal signals – growl, whine, bark,

Distance cues – proximity to the stimulus

When observing a dog, it is important to look at the whole dog - from head to toe - and at the situation/environment. For example, a wagging tail does not equal a happy dog. You need to look at how the tail is positioned relative to the body – is it being held up high and wagging quickly? Or is it down low and wagging slowly?


Learning to speak dog:

DogSpeak - Improving Communication Between You and Your Canine



In the sections below, we present videos of dogs displaying different patterns of body language. I suggest you watch each video at normal speed with the sound on. Then, watch again with no sound and at 50% speed. The speed function is found by clicking on the gear icon in the bottom right hand of the YouTube screen. See the screen shots below for help.

Let's go through a video in slow motion together to give you an idea what to look for: