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21 Common Dog Behaviors & their Hidden Meanings


9 min Read

January 05, 2024 | Training & Behaviour

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Common Dog Behaviors & their Hidden Meanings

Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.”This beautiful quote by Orhan Pamuk thoughtfully voices the message that hoomans gotta learn the doggy language; it’s not the other way around.

But how?

Understanding dog behavior helps us lend an ear to their unheard non-verbal cues and fosters a deeper connection.

It’s an art, a skill that evolves. A little patience and closer observation help pawrents easily discern the meaning behind the wagging tails, howls, and playful antics.

This understanding aids in tweaking our responses to best suit their emotional needs and goes a long way in dog training.

Continue reading as we help you decode the meaning behind 21 common dog behaviors and the possible reasons behind them.

#1 Wagging Tales

Dogs speak volumes through their tails. A wagging tail is not just a sign of happiness; it’s a nuanced language. A high wagging tail may indicate excitement, while a low wagging tail could mean submission or uncertainty.

Paying attention to the speed, position, and direction of the tail helps you understand their thoughts much better.

Go through the infographic below, we have the tail translation to make it easier for you.

tail tells

#2 Chewing

full shot dog biting shoe home

We know a little more about Doggos' love for chewing. That’s the sole reason we craft the finest Himalayan Cheese Chews to satisfy their chewy cravings.

We need to first understand why dogs chew.

  • If your dog is a puppy, they’re trying to relieve the pain of their adult teeth coming in

  • Chewing is also a mechanism they use to cope with stress

  • Destructive habits like chewing floor mats, your shoes, etc mean they are super bored. 

Here’s what you should do:

A) Feed them with our healthy Dogsee Cheese Chews: Its bone-like hardness and tasty cheese flavor ensure your pup chews on healthy dog treats.

While being protein and calcium-rich, the hard texture of the bars removes plaque and tartar buildup. They are perfect for your pooch's dental health.

B) Keep them entertained with safe chew and plush toys: This will ensure when you are not around or whenever they feel bored they have a toy to chew on and never disturb your harmless furniture :)

C) Spend quality time with them: As mentioned earlier these signs also mean, they could be stressed or bored. Your presence and interactions make them feel safe and entertained.

#3 Changing ear positions

soggy wet toller puppy dog laying down

Doggos’ ears are like antennas broadcasting their emotions. Raised ears signify alertness and curiosity, while flattened ears signal fear or submission.

Be watchful and take note of your dog’s ear positions. They could be sending you an important message.

#4 Yawning

adorable white little puppy

It's a common misunderstanding that if a Dog yawns they are tired. Interestingly, Dogs yawn not only when they get tired, but also when they are confused, under pressure, or face a threat.

Understanding the context helps distinguish between a sleepy yawn and a stress-relief yawn.

For example: A sleepy yawn occurs after periods of activity or before or after bedtime. Stress yawn can happen at any time in unfamiliar situations like a new environment.

Sleepy yawn is often accompanied by drooping eyelids, relaxed posture, and lowered head. But, stress yawn may be preceded by other stress signals like panting, pacing, raised eyebrows, etc.

#5 Tilting their head

red and white pit bull

Ever noticed your dog tilting its head when you speak? This adorable gesture helps them focus on vocal cues.

Did you know? Doggos can learn and understand human words - around 165, to be precise.

Hence, they tilt their heads in an attempt to understand the words we say, like sit, stay, treat, outside, etc, or any other sounds that make them curious.

#6 Standing up on their hind legs

cute little funny dogs are jumping

When a dog stands on its hind legs, it can convey a variety of messages. Firstly, it is a sign of affection. They want you to hug them, or they’re trying to reach out for a treat.

Secondly, dogs do this to get a better view of their surroundings. It is also a common sign of doggos feeling playful when they are around other dogs.

#7 Bringing you their toys

beautiful dachshund playing with kid

Like human babies, doggos love to bring and show off their toys to you. It’s not necessarily a play invitation; it’s a gesture of comfort and trust they have in you.

They love to hear appreciating words like a good boy or good girl, it’s a doggo way of creating fun and lovely bonding moments like these.

#8 Exposing Belly

woman playing with her jack russell

When a dog lies down and exposes their belly, they’re being playful or it is a sign of submission and respect.

Give their belly a gentle rub or a nice massage and watch their reaction, it’s just adorable!

While it's a sign of affection most of the time, our canine friend also might be expressing aggression. Rolling back is also a defense mechanism they use while being attacked by other animals.

#9 Puppy Eyes

dominika roseclay

Talk about playing emotional games, Doggos are pro at it. Can you ever get past those big, innocent, pleading dog eyes? It’s hard to resist and they know it!

It’s their deliberate tactic to trick you into offering those tasty treats or engage them in their favorite activity.

However, these pure souls show you puppy eyes to express their love and affection for you. They wish to receive simple things in return; your smiles, cuddles, and some tasty treats.

#10 Barking

angry dog

Barking is a versatile form of communication for dogs. Different pitches, durations, and frequencies convey distinct messages.

Dogs bark loudly and rapidly to express fear or anxiety, or it is a warning against potential intruders.

A short bark means they are friendly and want to play. If they produce a sharp yelp, it's a signal they are seeking help.

On a side note, along with understanding their behavior, it's critical to also know how to build a strong bond. Check out this blog to learn more: Building a Strong Bond with your Dog: Importance, Benefits, and Ways.

#11 Stretching

active pet playing dancing grass

Dogs stretch not only after waking from a nap or to warm up their muscles. You might have also seen them stretching when you’re back home.

They’re just saying, “Hey, I’m thrilled to see you! Please shower me with your love and affection in return”.

Give a big hug to these Doga professionals after every stretch!

#12 Licking their genitals

Licking their genitals

While licking is a natural grooming behavior, excessive licking in the genital area might indicate a urinary tract infection. As urinary tract infections are itchy, it triggers genital licking behavior.

Do consult a vet if you observe excessive licking, as early consultation will help detect potential health concerns.

#13 Panting

Dogs pant to regulate their body temperature, relieve stress, or prevent the body from heatstroke.

They pant when they are excited too. A few steroid-based medicines also can lead to excessive panting in dogs.

#14 Growling


Medium growl with or without bark growl is a warning sign that they are protective, territorial, aggressive, or threatened and can end up attacking other animals or people.

Moreover, a soft growl indicates they are in a playful mood. Encourage your Dog’s growl by understanding and taking necessary action. Because a dog that attacks without warning is incredibly dangerous.

Therefore be it playful growls or aggressive ones, respond with caution and care.

#15 Sniffing the air

Dog Sniffing the air

Dogs have an exceptional sense of smell, they sniff the air to explore the presence of other animals, potential threats, and prey.

They sniff dogs and people to see if they can become friends. The act of sniffing myriad scents engages their brains and provides mental stimulation.

#16 Raising their paws

girl gives treat labrador dog park dog training

Our furry friends raise their paws to draw the attention of their human companions. This is done to encourage the interaction of the pawrent to pet and play.

Dogs may gently place their paws on their pet parents’ arms or legs to express love and seek physical closeness.

#17 Zoomies

beautiful border collie dog havin fun

Pacing can indicate many things. Either the dog is scared, excited, or bored.

If your pup paces and runs in a circle around you, it means they wanna have fun and want you to join them.

Doggos are natural hunters too, they try out their chasing skills when they are too bored to engage themselves.

#18 Putting their tongue out to the side

dog making mess

When dogs are at ease and happy, you’ll often notice them casually letting their tongue hang out to one side. It’s a very common dog action while playing or when they are trying to prank you.

But if they hang their tongue to the side more frequently, consult a vet, as such a condition is called ‘Hanging Tongue Syndrome’. In such a case it’s not a happy thing, they need medical care.

#19 Wrinkling their Muzzle

Wrinkling their Muzzle

When Dogs wrinkle their muzzle, it is commonly a sign of being aggressive. If this is followed by showing their teeth and snarling, they are sure and prepared to attack.

Try to get them out of such situations and deal calmly to cool them off. With the right training and support, we can surely train doggos to control their anger in the house or while meeting other furry friends.

#20 Eating Quickly

shiba inu dog taking walk

Pet parents often misinterpret this behavior thinking that their pup has a hearty appetite. But this could also be an indication of anxiety or a lingering survival instinct.

Consider feeding food by using an interactive feeder bowl to slow down the mealtime and make it a more enjoyable experience.

If this behavior is not corrected early, it could lead to issues like choking hazards and gastrointestinal issues.

#21 Licking People

Dogs lick people face

Dogs lick people to seek attention and say “I love you”.  Imagine you’re meeting your pet after a long time, you’d see them fall on and give you a bath with their tongue.

Another reason is that our skin contains minerals and nutrients. Hence our skin tastes like a salty treat to dogs.

If licking becomes intense, try discouraging the behavior by not giving them much attention, or rewarding them for not licking.

The bottom line: understanding doggy language

We hope you found this blog insightful. Now that you know what Doggos are trying to communicate through their unique actions and behaviors, ensure to respond with patience and more love.

If you think they need professional treatment, don’t hesitate or delay taking them to a vet or dog behaviorist.

At Dogsee we firmly believe that offering your pet the love they deserve involves a clear understanding of their behavior, vaccination, nutrition requirements, exercise, and more.

If you aspire to be an even better pet parent, join our community of 35k pet parents on our social media platforms. We’ll keep you updated with valuable pet parenting tips.

Here are the links.



Woof! Thanks for reading this faar. That’s it for now, see you in the next blog.

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