Get the App on

Dog behaviour is fascinating! A dog shares most of its DNA with its natural ancestor, the wolf, but their behaviour is very different. 

Each instance of body language, gesturing or sound is a signal that lets you know what your dog is feeling. They could be scared, sad, over-excited or anxious… but the key thing is that they really are trying to tell you about it!

Better understanding your dog’s behaviour can help you to train them to be the best they can be. It also lets you more reliably pinpoint any underlying issues they may be dealing with. This not only lets you put their health and wellbeing first, but means you may even be able to avoid a few unnecessary vet’s bills.

How much do you know about dog behaviour? Here are 10 common habits that dog owners encounter. 

#1 Barking

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Barking can be your dog’s way of giving a warning (or alert), a sign of playfulness or excitement, a cry for attention, a response to another dog, or a symptom of anxiety or boredom.

What Can You Do About It?

Be patient, and find the underlying cause behind the barking. Once you know that, you can teach your dog some bark/quiet commands to discourage excessive noise making.

#2 Begging

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Your dog wants what you have!

What Can You Do About It?

Send your dog to a designated place (ideally where it can’t stare at you) before you eat. At the end of your meal, reward it with a special treat if it’s behaved well and resisted the temptation to beg.

#3 Biting/Aggression

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Biting is usually a sign of fear, pain, sickness, or a protective or defensive action.

What Can You Do About It?

Any dog has the potential for aggressive behaviour, so you need to understand it. You may be quite experienced in this area yourself, but there’s also professional assistance. Seek help from your vet, and look to a professional dog trainer or behaviourist for more support. 

#4 Chewing

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Chewing can be a sign that your dog is bored, anxious, curious, or in need of some exercise. In puppies, it’s also a natural teething activity.

What Can You Do About It?

Provide plenty of chew toys so your dog is chewing on the right things. Distract a dog that’s chewing the wrong thing with a noise, and then slip them something more appropriate!

#5 Digging

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Digging can be a sign of boredom, anxiety, fear or curiosity. It can also be a hunting instinct, or showcase a desire to seek comfort, hide possessions or escape.

What Can You Do About It?

Try to uncover the underlying behaviour that’s causing your dog to dig, and then take steps to address it. If this is proving difficult, train your dog to dig only in a designated area (like a sandbox).

#6 Jumping

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Jumping can be your dog's way of greeting people, but may also be a sign of excitement, attention seeking or an attempt to steal an item that you’re holding.

What Can You Do About It?

If you suspect a case of attention seeking, turn away and simply ignore your dog’s jumping. Don’t endorse the bad habit! Reward your dog when they calm down.

#7 Panting

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Your dog is probably too warm, but they could also be in pain.

What Can You Do About It?

Help your dog to cool down if the weather is obviously warm, but don’t ignore unexplained panting. Contact your vet if you suspect an injury or illness may be causing it.

#8 Destructive Behaviour

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Destructive behaviour can be a sign that your dog is bored, or perhaps very stressed about being left alone.

What Can You Do About It?

Take your dog on a long walk (or play fetch) before you leave them alone. Let them expend excess energy in a positive way! Needing to rest can also help to calm them. If bad behaviour is accompanied by howling, whining, pacing, and indoor “accidents”, then you may be dealing with a case of extreme separation anxiety. Consult a professional dog trainer or behaviourist.

#9 Sitting Between Your Legs/On Your Feet

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Your dog is probably anxious or nervous, so is staying close to you.

What Can You Do About It?

If you can uncover the cause of your dog’s anxiety, you may be able to help them overcome it yourself. Alternatively, if your dog’s nervousness seems to be very severe, they may benefit from seeing a behavioural specialist.

#10 Yawning

What’s Your Dog Trying to Tell You? 

Whilst a yawn can be a sign of tiredness, increased yawning could also be a sign of fear or stress.

What Can You Do About It?

If yawning occurs when your dog is around a new person, don’t force the introduction. Let your dog become accustomed to the newcomer at their own pace.

How did you do? 

There’s lots of misinformation surrounding the ways that dogs communicate, and many people don’t understand what signals their four-legged friend is trying to send.

Did you know that many people think a dog that often sits between their owner’s legs (or on their feet) is asserting dominance, or being possessive?

As you’ve seen from our examples above, the reality is quite the opposite!

A lack of understanding can also make problematic behaviour even worse. 

Did you know that shouting at your dog doesn’t generally stop them from barking? Your dog may actually think you’re joining in, so you could be making it worse!

Some dog behaviours that people find funny or even cute can be a sign of an underlying health problem too. These behaviours can include:

  • A change in the smell of your dog’s breath.
  • A compulsive need to walk in circles.
  • A habit of pressing their head into a firm object.
  • A tendency to “scoot” with their bottom on the ground.
  • A sudden change in urinating habits.

Around 92% of pets will be at the centre of some sort of emergency during their lifetimes, and around 60% of veterinary visits are dubbed as “emergencies”. 

Just like a lack of understanding can make problematic dog behaviour worse, or miss what your dog is trying to tell you, a lack of awareness can lead to health problems.

Did you know that preventable accidents are actually the leading cause of deaths among pre-senior dogs?

Knowing what to do in an emergency situation can make all the difference to the outcome, just like knowing what your dog’s behaviour is telling you can help you to solve a seemingly insurmountable problem.

Want to get even better at caring for your dog?

Centre of Excellence has you covered.
Learn more or start your training below to become Excellent.

Inspiration just for you!

To try some of our most popular courses for free, enter your
email and we'll send you some samples of our favourites.

Image of person of color holding a large envelope


There are no comments yet.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to submit a comment.