Experts Decoded These Common Dog Habits – And Revealed What Your Pet Is Trying To Tell You

We all love dogs, right? These jumpy, loyal animals make for the perfect pets at home, often showing us plenty of affection. But have you ever wondered what your canines might be telling you through their everyday habits? Well, we’ve compiled a list of 40 of these behaviors – and what they mean might surprise you.

40. A quick look

When your dog gives you a glance and then quickly stares at something else, don’t worry. It’s not a bad sign! In fact, it indicates that your canine friend is respectful of you and compliant. Remember this, though: if you’ve got any snacks on your person, that short look will turn into a prolonged gaze. Yes, dogs love their goodies.

39. Scooting

Scooting may look like an eccentric behavior at first, but try not to laugh too much. Because it’s a sign of anal discomfort in dogs, the website Petsworld reported. From a simple itch to an infection, they drag their backsides along the ground to alleviate the problem. Poor pooches.

38. Stretching

Who doesn’t love a good stretch? It really helps to shake the cobwebs away after staying in one position for a while. But what about dogs? Is it the same for them? Well, according to the website PetHelpful, they like to do it when they see their owners following a spell apart. Simply put, stretching is a sign of affection.

37. Raised hackles

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When a dog’s hackles (hairs on their spine) start to prick up, you should probably try to calm them down. This reaction is more often than not a sign of fear, anxiety or anger. Plus they’ll appear to be quite attentive as well, carefully watching their surroundings. Your pooch might be like this around other canines too, so be ready!

36. Flicking their ears

Dogs are renowned for their fantastic hearing, but they don’t always recognize certain sounds. So to combat that problem, the animals flick their ears in an attempt to zone in on the emission. It’s just like when we’re trying to pick up a radio signal by adjusting the antenna. Hopefully they avoid the static!

35. Sitting between your legs

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When your pet tries to sit on you, it could be interpreted as an act of domination. Almost like the animal is trying to claim control over its master. But that’s not the case with dogs, according to PetsWorld. In fact, if they position themselves on your lap, it might be a sign that they’re feeling worried or frightened. In other words, they’re after a feeling of security, and your lap provides it!

34. Yelping

If you own a dog, there are few sounds more troubling than that of a yelp. What does it mean? Well, it might indicate two different things, according to the website Rover.com. Either your canine chum is crying out in shock, or they’ve just hurt themselves. It certainly gets your attention either way.

33. Opening their mouth slightly

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Did you know that you can tell a lot about a dog’s mood by just looking at their mouths? They’re easier to decipher than cats anyway. For instance, if a canine keeps its jaws open a little, that’s a sign that the pooch is content. You could almost say that it’s their way of smiling.

32. Pacing

While speaking to the Dogster website in March 2020, canine expert Amanda Gagnon touched upon the act of pacing. She said, “Dogs will pace because they’re bored or carry excessive energy. Less common reasons for pacing are mating behaviors, attention-seeking behaviors and medical issues.” Regarding that last point, the problems can range from stomach ailments to their mental health. So remember a hug and a stroke goes a long way.

31. Licking their crotch

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When your dog starts to lick its genitals, you can’t help but look away. Because it should be a private moment, right? According to the VCA Animal Hospital website, the pooch usually does this to cleanse themselves after peeing. If they stay down there, though, you might want to consider visiting a vet.You see, constant licking could be a sign of an urinary tract infection.

30. Jumping

Does your dog leap at you when you return home at the end of the day? More often than not, that’s their own way of saying hello. Yet according to famed canine expert Cesar Millan, there could be another meaning behind it. “Jumping up is a sign that your dog is attempting to assert their dominance over you,” read a post on the Cesar’s Way website.

29. Sniffing the air

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Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, latching on to scents in an instant. They put all of us to shame. But why do our lovable pals sniff the air? Well, it’s the canines’ way of picking up on any nearby hazards, says website PetHelpful. And you probably won’t hear a peep out of them while they’re doing it, as they don’t want to give themselves away.

28. Narrowed eyes

When a person narrows their eyes, they’re usually focused on whatever’s in front of them. Dogs are fairly similar in that regard, albeit with more aggression. Because if a pooch sports that particular look, they want to establish themselves as an intimidating force. So be careful!

27. Howling

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Yes, wolves aren’t the only animals that howl. And dogs can fire out this distinctive sound for a few different reasons. The website Rover.com claimed that it’s both a sign of loneliness and a way of marking their territory. Plus the cry is seen as a “guide” to their absent owners, too.

26. Pulling back their mouth

Dogs can get pretty noisy, right? So when you’re greeted by periods of silence, you can’t help but wonder if your pet’s alright. Well, should you find that their mouths are shut and pulled back, they’re not okay. Canines are afraid or anxious in those instances, notes the animal welfare website ASPCApro.

25. Shaking their head

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Have you ever questioned why your dog rattles its head on occasion? Wonder no more. As vet Jennifer Coates explained on the PetMD website, “Head shaking is a brilliant way for dogs to get something out of their ears that shouldn’t be there. When dogs feel itchiness or irritation in their ears, they instinctively shake their heads.”

24. Panting

While humans pant when they’re trying to catch their breath, it’s a bit different with dogs. Cesar’s Way revealed, “Because dogs sweat through the pads on their feet, most of their body heat is expelled through their mouth when they pant. It’s their primary means of regulating body temperature. Dogs also pant to cope with pain.”

23. Straightening their tail

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You can often tell a lot about a dog’s mindset through the movement of their tail. But why does it straighten up sometimes? Is that a bad sign? We can assure you – it isn’t. In fact, ASPCApro noted that it’s a way for canines to show their excitement. Plus, a stiff tail also indicates arousal… so there’s that too!

22. Walking in circles before bed

We all like to get comfortable prior to going to sleep, right? So why should dogs be any different? But your pooch doesn’t just walk in a circle beforehand to get cosy. As per the VCA Animal Hospital, it’s an act that’s embedded in their genes. Much like their forebears, they want to find a spot ready to face danger.

21. Exposing their stomach

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It’s always nice to show your dog affection, but you still might be caught in two minds when it rolls over onto its back. Should you give your pet a belly rub, or focus on another area? Well, the canine is actually highlighting its “respect” for you in those instances, according to PetHelpful. So tickle away!

20. Pricking their ears

If you’re bored at home, you could entertain yourself by watching the behavior of your dog’s ears. Thanks to their ever-changing movement, they’re just as unpredictable as any TV drama. Why do the pooch’s lugs prick forward, though? What does it mean? Well, ASPCApro reported that it’s a sign of arousal.

19. Growling

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Once a dog starts to growl, you should be wary of what to do next. Because this aggressive sound acts as a “warning” if the canine is anxious, Rover.com noted. So you obviously don’t want to make things worse. Yet at the same time, the website suggested that growling happens when a pair of pooches horse around together.

18. Pawing your legs

It’s pretty easy for a dog to get your attention, but you might not know what they actually want. If only we were all like Doctor Dolittle! According to animal welfare journalist Josie Turner, one act is simple enough to understand. As she wrote on the website AnimalWised, a paw to the lap indicates that they’d love some fuss from you.

17. Chasing their tail

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You might think that it’s quite normal for a dog to chase its tail. And that’s true if they don’t do it too often. But should your canine pal be fixated on the act, there could be an underlying issue. Yes, ear infections have been responsible in the past, says the Hill’s Pet Nutrition website. So keep that in mind.

16. Crouching

When certain animals crouch down, they’re usually ready to spring back up and catch something. That’s not always the case with dogs, though. Because crouching could indicate that they’re feeling anxious or afraid of their surroundings. Then again, it’s sometimes a sign that your pet is eager to have a little fun as well.

15. Freezing their position

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When something startles you, how do you react? Do you run away, or find yourself frozen to the spot? Dogs are no different in that respect, as the jolt can affect them either way. According to ASPCApro, a terrified pooch might just stay put, unable to move. So we’d advise you to be very cautious around them if that happens.

14. Wagging their tail

A tail wag can tell you everything that you need to know about your dog’s mood. So you should watch them closely. For instance, PetHelpful noted that a slow wiggle from a “natural position” highlights that the canine is eager to have fun. And when it’s raised, they’re exuberant. But if their tail’s low, it’s a sign of unhappiness.

13. Showing their teeth

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While dogs are fairly calm for the most part, they’re not afraid to let you know when something’s bothering them. On those occasions, the animals show their teeth. The website Wag! claimed that canines have different tipping points, so not every dog will be annoyed by the same thing. Just like humans then.

12. Digging

If you’ve ever wondered why dogs love to dig, Cesar Millan provided an answer via his website. He said, “Digging is an instinctual activity, written deep in a dog’s DNA. Dogs in natural packs will dig to hide food or to uncover food such as small rodents. A den dug in the cool earth can also provide shelter from the heat.” Who knew?

11. Mounting and humping

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Let’s face it. There are few things more embarrassing than when your dog mounts and humps anything during its daily walks. But is it just a sexual act? You bet it is! By jumping on a person or another pooch, the canine looks to pleasure itself, with the ASPCA website confirming that that applies to both males and females. Time to cover your children’s eyes.

10. Whimpering

While writing for the PetHelpful website, canine fan Januaris Saint Fores made an interesting point. He said, “If a dog produces a low, short whine or whimper, he’s excited, anxious or submissive. A prolonged whine or whimper shows that he’s uncomfortable or in pain. According to my own observations, most dogs use these body languages to ask for attention.”

9. Eating poop

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We hope you’ve got a strong stomach for this one. Yes, dogs do eat poop from time to time, but what drives them on to it? Well, they could devour the mess if they’ve done it somewhere they shouldn’t have. Or the pooch might be looking to try it out of curiosity, according to Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Can’t say we’ve ever felt the same.

8. Yawning

Now we know what you’re thinking – “dogs yawn just like us, right?” Well, we hate to break it to you, but when a canine is caught yawning, it’s not necessarily an indication of tiredness. In fact, Hill’s Pet Nutrition reported that it’s actually an outpouring of anxiety. It could happen near people the dog doesn’t know, so be mindful of that.

7. A wrinkled muzzle

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When a dog’s snout starts to crease up, you’ve got to be very careful. As Fores explained on PetHelpful, “If your canine friend is wrinkling his muzzle, he’s angry or aggressive. You should stop the thing causing this behavior and move away to avoid being attacked.” They should calm down eventually.

6. Bowing

People usually bow as a sign of respect to another person. But of course, dogs do it for an entirely different reason. Because bowing showcases their happiness. Unlike crouching, they’ll bring their torso down to the floor and rest their paws in front of them.

5. Tucking their tail between their legs

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You might be surprised to hear that dogs do indeed tuck their tail between their legs at times. It’s not just a derogatory phrase! Why does it happen? Well, ASPCApro claimed that scared pooches react in that manner, so it appears to match that famous old phrase. And their appendage moves in an almost-robotic way as well.

4. Biting

Yes, dogs are prone to biting people, but why do they do it? As per Cesar’s Way, “A dog will bite a person as a way of communicating their current state of mind. The dog could be reacting in aggression, fear or nervousness. [But] there are ways to prevent a dog bite from ever happening if you stay in tune to the dog’s body language.”

3. Licking their lips

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When your dog starts to lick its lips, don’t be deceived. If it’s away from its bowl, food has nothing to do with the action. In fact, it’s a sign of nervousness noted canine expert Amy Bender while writing for the website The Spruce Pets. She called the behavior an “appeasement gesture.”

2. Tilting their head

Is there anything cuter than a dog that tilts its head? They’re absolutely adorable! Normally, canines exhibit this behavior when an object piques their curiosity. People do that too. And PetHelpful also said that pooches try to pick up distant noises this way, zoning in on their location.

1. Head pressing

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Should there ever come a time when your dog starts to push its head on a wall or flat surface, don’t ignore it. Please. You see, Hill’s Pet Nutrition reported that the canine could be suffering from a severe neurological ailment. In other cases, it might be a bout of poisoning. Either way, you must contact a vet as quickly as possible.

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