"Why is he doing that?”

Have you ever looked at your dog and thought “Why is he doing that?” or “Hmmm, what is my dog feeling?” One way dogs communicate is through body language. Reading a dog’s body language and accompanying behaviors can provide you with a lot of information about how your dog is feeling and what his next step might be. This becomes especially important when trying to keep yourself and your children safe from dog bites.

Always allow your dog a safe place to retreat!

Many signs that we will be discussing today are some signs that the dog in question may be feeling uneasy. While an anxious dog is not always an aggressive dog, any dog that feels cornered or threatened may attempt to bite to protect himself from perceived danger. Always allow your dog a safe place to retreat to and educate all family members and visitors to stay away from your dog if he chooses to retreat.

Why is it valuable to be able to observe and understand dog body language?

When you learn to read and understand what a dog is telling you, we will have a better relationship with our dogs. You can communicate to a dog that your friendly and not a threat. When you can read a dog it will help you in training and handling and enrich your life.

Understanding Behavior, Body Language, and Vocalizations

Dogs consciously give subtle, often comical and witty ways to express themselves. This section is for everyone interested in dogs - pet owners, veterinarians, trainers, behavior consultants, behaviorist or just about anyone. Here you will find detailed photos and easy to follow vocabulary on many subtle and not so subtle  ways dogs speak dog. Science tell use that Wolves have a much more readable body language than our domestic dogs subtle language. Since the wolf is recognized as an ancestor of our dogs and the wolves DNA is ever present in our domestic dog we can use the wolves as a template for much of the behavior we observe in our furry friends.



The word orientation by itself simply means the direction an animal is facing. For example, when a dog picks up the scent of the chicken you are cooking in the kitchen, he lifts his head up from his bed and orients it towards the kitchen. next

Focus on Her Face


The first and most basic behavior concept that all dog trainers must understand is called orientation and the orienting response. The orienting response is when an animal turns to face something that has caught her attention, such as a sight, sound, or smell. For example, noises and movements are particularly attention-getting to dogs. When dogs hear or see something new in the environment, they turn to face it, in order to get more information and assess the situation.

You can learn a lot by paying attention to where dogs orient themselves. Simply put, what a dog is oriented towards is what he is focused on and thinking about. It tells you what his primary motivator is in that instant, and can help you determine what he is likely to do (or not do) next. This is very valuable information for a trainer who is always analyzing dog behavior and making decisions about what to do next.


As you will now begin to observe dogs more intently than ever, continually ask yourself these questions:

1. What is that dog focused on?
2. What is the primary motivator for that dog right now?
3. What is that dog going to do next?

Looking at orientation will give hints to answer these questions. next

Particularly Where Her Nose is Pointed.

meta communication


Dog anatomy comprises the anatomical studies of the visible parts of the body of a canine. Remember behavior is the way any animal reacts to or interacts with its immediate environment. Some behaviors are voluntary and others may be involuntary physiological responses to the environmental stimuli or stressors. Here you will learn some common body language demonstrated by a particular body part such as ears, eyes, mouth and much more.


Calming Signals

Calming signals are behaviors observed in dogs when interacting with either humans or other dogs.  Ms. Rugaas believes calming signals are to prevent conflict within a group.  Basically, they are the grease that keeps a social interaction from going badly – such as when people smile at each other when first meeting.

This can include behaviors such as; licking the lips or nose...


Displacement Behaviors

Displacement behaviors are normal behaviors displayed out of context. They occur when the dog is experiencing conflicting emotions. The dog wants to do something, but he is suppressing the urge to do it. Displacement activities often consist of comfort movements, such as touching, scratching, yawn, or grooming. Most displacement behaviors indicate conflict and anxiety.

calming signals

Avoidance Behavior

Avoidance Behaviors: There are often clear signs that your dog is upset and wants no part of the people or situation that he is currently in. If your dog is displaying any of these behaviors, allow him to retreat to a safe place. If you are around someone else’s dog and he’s displaying these behaviors, you and/or your children must do the retreating. A dog who displays avoidance behaviors may feel cornered or threatened and may end up biting.

meta communication

The Use of Meta-Communication in Dog Play

What Are the Benefits of Playing:

The use of play with metacommunications allows for the dog to enjoy a deep conversation with another dog or human, and also lets them practice behaviors in a non-serious environment.  Puppies who are not allowed to learn these social cues, like what a play bow means or the best way to approach another dog for playing, often wind up socially awkward. 

Canine Vocalizations

Different Vocalization in Dogs

Many first-time dog-owners are amazed at the range and expressiveness of dogs’ barks, growls and whimpers.  Neighbors of dog-owners are even more amazed at the volume of dog vocalizations.  With all dog noises, the most common question asked is; “What is that dog saying?” 

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