Do you speak “dog”?

Imagine that you decided to adopt a deaf dog. Or maybe you have a deaf friend or family member, who you have learned to communicate with in other ways. How would you go about communicating with your dog if you or the dog were deaf? Dogs can’t do sign language, of course. Having no spoken communication can seem like a daunting idea. How would you train your dog? How would it know what you wanted from it?

Dogs have different forms of communicating, as you may have learned fairly quickly when you became a dog owner. They don’t have the ability to speak, although barking can sometimes feel like a way that your dog is trying to communicate with you. But in actuality, barking is a fairly small part of dog communication.

Dogs use body language as the majority of their communication. They try to gauge our moods by our demeanor, voice level and pitch, and even our smell. Some of the signals dogs put out are simple to read…snarling and showing teeth is a sure sign of aggression, for instance! Still, some may be new to you. We will talk about some of the more common signals to help you understand some of your dog’s behavior.

If you watch your dog in different situations, you may catch a glimpse of body language communications that you never realized were even there before. Dogs use many of these in times of stress, nervousness, and when getting together with dog friends, whether new or old. If your dog is meeting a new dog and feels threatened or nervous, you may see him sniffing the ground with extreme interest, making a large arc away from the new dog, freezing in place, and even averting his gaze. These are several things that dogs do to make other dogs feel more comfortable in meeting them, as well as to make themselves feel more comfortable.

When your dog is stressed out from excitement, you may see an excess of yawning or a timid licking of the lips. These are both things that a dog does to calm himself when he is overly excited. Sometimes this will help your dog to wait without jumping or running off.

If your dog feels that you are angry about something because you have yelled or raised your voice, you will likely see things like your dog freezing in place, averting his eyes (which often makes owners perceive that the dog feels guilty), lying flat on his belly or pawing the ground. These are meant to calm the anger that you are feeling and put you in a better mood towards the dog!

When an owner is rushing a dog or pulling on the leash, you may see the dog move extremely slowly, or drop to the ground and freeze. These again are ways to calm down the person, or a dog that is acting threatening. In some cases, a dog will also get in between two other dogs or people that they feel are ready to fight. This is their way of diffusing the bad feelings, and averting the fight.

If a dog is being introduced to a new pet or person, like a dog playmate, he may feel excited, but realize that the other dog isn’t ready to meet. In these cases, you may see a dog that does the play bow, but stands very still until the other dog reacts, crawling on the ground with a very fast wagging tail, or laying on the ground with his back or side to the other dog. These are forms of dog politeness, giving each other time to get to know each other from afar, before barreling up and possibly starting a fight.

These are the majority of the body language communication stances, so what do they mean to the dog owner? If you try to recognize these signs in your dog, you may be able to help calm him by mirroring some of these. It can work with new dogs as well as your own. Have you ever met a dog that seems nervous of you, and just sat with your back to them or averted your eyes? In most cases, when this is done, a dog that seems like it’s ready to jump at you will calm down and sometimes even come up to you and sniff. The more time you spend trying to master these techniques, the more comfortable you’ll feel using them.

Dogs are happy when they understand that their human companion has a way to communicate with them. You can use techniques like yawning to help your dog reduce stress if he becomes scared. And if you realize that your dog is upset it will help you to understand him better and make you even better at being his pet parent.

However you take this information, it is a way to better understand your pooch in his communication style. You may not feel the need to use them, but maybe you will recognize them easier now and it will help you talk to your dog in a different way. We hope you enjoyed these tidbits of info.