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A Trupanion blog

How Do Dogs Communicate? Dog Owner Questions Answered

By: Kelli Rascoe
Dogs have a unique way of communication. In fact, your best friend may be using signals and body language as a way to let other dogs know how they’re feeling. While not all dogs pick up on signals, it may be beneficial to understand what they’re trying to say to one another. For instance, in the case of dog behavior, you may be asking yourself, “how do dogs communicate?” Fortunately, we sat with Trupanion veterinarian Dr. Caroline Wilde to learn more about dog communication and tips to help your best friend socialize in the future.

Two German Shepherd puppies sitting together in a wooden crate

How do dogs communicate with one another?

Every dog may react differently to a new environment or animal. Whether you’re a new puppy owner or have a multi-pet household, it can be helpful to understand what your pet is trying to communicate to others in any situation.

For example, “dogs communicate with visual cues such as body posture, head position, ear position, tail, and even hair, as well as through vocalization, like barking or growling,” says Wilde.

Naturally, your dog may bark or wag their tail for a number of reasons. For this reason, it’s important to try to be mindful of why they’re acting that way. It may mean they’re uncomfortable or stressed with another person, place, or animal. To learn more about dog vocalization, read The Spruce Pets guide.

Decoding dog body language: what to look for

You may have recently brought home a new furry friend, and your dog may be adjusting to their new home. So, how do you know what to look for in your new pet? Wilde points out several signs to look for when your dog is interacting with other pets.

Two dogs outside chewing on a toy together

Considering the following:

  • Unlike humans, eye contact is generally considered a sign of aggression between dogs.
  • When dogs first meet and greet each other, they generally avoid eye contact and sniff each other’s rear ends. This is considered a polite greeting in the dog world, unlike when dogs stare at each other it can be a sign of aggression.
  • Rolling over and showing another dog its belly can be a sign of submission.
  • A play bow may be a sign of initiating play.
  • Tail wagging should be interpreted in light of the dog’s environment and what the rest of the body is doing, as it can sometimes indicate that the dog is happy.
  • Tail wagging may also be a sign of anxiety or nervousness.

Always take into consideration what your pet is doing when they’re exhibiting certain behaviors. For example, are they excited about a new friend, guarding their space, or maybe stimulated by the new toy in the room? Consider introducing your pets slowly to help provide a safe and welcoming space for everyone.

Why is it important to understand how dogs communicate?

Communication is important among your furry friends. Also, it’s important for the well-being of all of your pets. For example, if one dog is trying to give a cue that they need some space and another dog doesn’t pick up on that, the situation may escalate.

In addition, “understanding how dogs communicate can help prevent interdog aggression, incidents with humans, and improve the dog human bond. Further, by understanding what your dog is trying to tell you and other dogs, you may help your dog feel more comfortable and lessen anxiety,” states Wilde.

Your pet feeling safe and comfortable in their space is an important part of socialization. For more creative ways to keep your pet safe, check out this article.

Tips to help your dog socialize with others

A well-balanced house is ideal for everyone. While pets have a mind of their own when it comes to their behavior, it may be helpful to assist with communication. Wilde points out some tips to consider when your new dog is socializing with other furry friends.

Two dogs playing with their toys together in the house

Dog communication 101

  • Dog’s socialization should begin as early as possible, (socialization period in puppies is generally from 3-14 weeks), so that the adult dog learns how to properly interact with other dogs and humans.
  • It’s important to socialize your dog safely, so ask your veterinarian about vaccinations your dog needs and whether it’s safe for your dog to socialize with other dogs.
  • Some veterinarians and day cares host puppy play sessions.
  • Watch your dog for signs of anxiety, like yawning or lip smacking,
  • Behavior cues can help an owner know when to redirect a dog’s attention and avoid potential conflict

Every dog is different and may respond differently to meeting a new dog or new furry family member. Take into consideration it may take your new pet time to adjust to everyone in the family. Every pet has their own unique way of communication and it takes time for pets to understand and learn each other’s personal cues. To learn more about understanding dog anxiety and stress, read this guide.

How do dogs communicate? It may depend on your furry friend

There may be a variety of reasons why your dog is communicating the way they are. But by notating your dog’s behavior, taking your time and slowly introducing other pets, and talking to your veterinarian, your best friend may be a great communicator in no time at all!

To learn more about dog behavior, read Why Does My Dog Paw at Me? Dog Owner Questions Answered.

A dog and cat snuggle

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Welcome to the Trupanion blog. A place to celebrate pets, pet health and medical insurance for cats and dogs.

This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.

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