How Well Do You Speak the Secret Language of Dogs?

Many people give credit for their dog being smart because it can understand various commands given by the owner. The truth is that dogs have their own language and it’s more complicated than simply teaching a dog a few words while you give them some treats. 

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Learning to communicate with your dogs can provide a greater bond between you. Verbal commands are important. However, the tone a command is given is just as important. Dogs communicate to humans as well! Learning to read the subtle physical cues that a dog provides can be difficult, but ultimately is rewarding. If you’ve always wanted to better communicate with your beloved dog, then keep reading to learn more about the secret language of dogs and how they communicate. 

Dogs and Human Speech

When talking about dogs and their ability to communicate with people, it’s been suggested that they can understand English and specific works. However, that’s not quite true. Dogs can take words we use and remember them as sounds. In fact, the smarter the dog, the more they can do this. Dogs learn from potential reward. If the reward they have received in the past is good enough, then they will perform the activity! Honestly, if they don’t believe the reward is worth stopping their current act to get it, they may choose to ignore it all. 

The other way that dogs understand human speech isn’t through the specific sounds that are made, but through the tone of voice that is used. Many people know that when they tell their dog that it's time for a walk, the dog gets excited. However, it’s the way that walk is said that makes it so central to that does communication. It’s very rare that a human is saying walk in an angry tone. The potential excitement offered helps build the dogs memories and understanding of what happens when walk is said in that manner. However, if the word is used in an angry or neutral tone, it’s possible that the dog won’t understand at all. Some studies have shown that dogs use both the left side and right side of their brains to process communication. The left side understands the sound, with the right side processing the tone. 

Providing Nonverbal Commands

Many people choose to train their dogs to react to both verbal commands and physical movements. The idea is that the dog will react in the same way that they will to the sound by making movements. The most common method is to train hand movements and vocal commands at the same time. 

The most common movements tend to be based on sit, lie down and stay. These all start from the same position with the hand at the side. Moving arms up, down or twisting can be enough that the dog in turn understands how to move. It’s possible to extend beyond one hand to use a second hand for extra commands. 

Understanding a Dog’s Cues

Your dog can try to tell you many things through their sounds and body movements. There’s a lot of little cues that can sometimes be missed. Some of the most common cues a dog is giving you include: 

  • Type of Panting - Sure, a dog pants when they are too hot or have exercised heavily. However, there’s more to it. Dogs will often pant when they are feeling happy or have energy to burn. This is a quiet form of panting. If a dog is panting heavily when it shouldn’t, it’s a common sign of anxiety. It may be afraid. This is a common reaction for some dogs to thunderstorms. 
  • Hair Shifting - If a dog is feeling scared or aggressive, the hair on its body will change, especially on the back of its head. This can also occur when it’s suddenly alert about potential impending danger. 
  • Dog Posture - The way a dog sit and stands can be a sign of their feelings. Calm dogs are relaxed and have all feet on the floor with comfort. Dogs that arch away and seem to shrink down are being submissive. They could be afraid of you. Whereas if they are trying to make themselves bigger and their muscles seem tight and ready to launch, it’s the opposite and they are attempting to exert their dominance. 
  • The Head Tilt - This is a common expression that many humans find to be adorable in their dogs. Typically, the reason a dog tilts its head is an attempt to hear better and understand what is going on around them. 
  • Ear Position - Ears will shift on a dog depending on their feelings. They can show submission. Most positions of ears simply show a dog is attempting to listen. It can be to you, or to other environmental stimuli.

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