Click Here to Create or Access Your Client Profile.


East Valley K9 Services


Dog Communication How to Understand What Your Dog is Saying

Like humans, dogs primarily speak through their body language. Did you know that humans communicate 70-93% through nonverbal, body language and cues?

Dog Communication How to Understand What Your Dog is Saying

Table of Contents

Dog Communication: How to Understand What Your Dog is Saying

Courtesy: Greg Newman / Pixabay

Just like humans, canines are always expressing themselves

with each other and their surrounding world including us.

But do you understand what they are trying to communicate?

Keep reading to learn how to understand what your dog is saying.

Courtesy: Monicore / Pixabay

4 Dog Communication:

Dogs communicate (or transfer information) with a combination of:

1. Vocalizations (sound).

2. Body language (visual).

3. Scent and pheromones (smell); and

4. Tactile cues (touch).

In today’s blog, we’re going to take a deeper look into canine body language and vocalizations.

A picture containing mammal, fox, wild dog Description automatically generated

Dog Communication: Body Language

Edit Image

Like humans, dogs primarily speak through their body language. Did you know that humans communicate 70-93% through nonverbal, body language and cues?

According to the Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, a K9’s body language includes:

· Tail position and movement.

· Ear and eye position.

· Body position and movement; and

· Facial expressions.

But when trying to understand what your dog is attempting to convey, remember to:

· Observe the entire dog’s body (and communication cues) along with

· The actual situation and context (the “big picture”).

Understand Canine Body Language with the ASPCA’s visual guide here.

A person holding a dog Description automatically generated

K9 Body Language: 5 Categories

K9 body language typically falls under five categories of dog communication:

1. Fearful.

2. Arousal.

3. Anxiety.

4. Aggressive; and

5. Relaxed.

Keep in mind, a dog may be trying to communicate in more than one way, depending on the specific situation.

Also, if a threat or danger remains unresolved, the dog’s behavior may escalate from one category to another. For example, a fearful dog may intensify his attempts at communication with more aggressive cues.

Learn more about each of these categories of K9 body communication here.

Now, let’s move on to the secondary form of dog communication, vocalizations.

Dog Communication: Vocalizations

Communicating with vocalizations is also known as auditory communication. For dogs, the common vocal cues include:

· Barking.

· Growling.

· Howling.

· Whining.

· Whimpering.

· Singing.

· Panting; and

· Sighing.

While these verbal cues are common, what do they mean?


This is akin to yelling. Dogs are trying to express themselves and vent their feelings. Different pitches of barking help indicate the reason.

· Rapid, continuous barking:“Alert! Someone or something is in my territory!”

· Loud, deep barks: “Strangers beware! I don’t trust you!”

· Yelping bark: “Help! I’m injured or in pain!”

Dog Communication howling


Edit Image

Dogs growl for different reasons. It may be a normal part of play, due to pain, they may be afraid, angry, feeling possessive over a person, object or location, asking for more space or issuing a warning. Note: growling does not always mean an aggressive dog! This is a common misconception. (Learn more about growling from our blog, “When Dogs Growl – Is It Always Bad?


This higher-pitched vocalization announces the dog’s approach and/or presence and attempts to communicate with other canines in the area.


When your dog wants something, like a tasty treat or even your attention, they usually resort to whining. But whining could also indicate a stressful reaction or potential injury or pain.


This form of vocalization lets you know your dog is happy and in a good mood. Often canines will resort to this form of dog communication in response to another auditory cue like a piano being played or the sound of a siren.


There are two opposing reasons why dogs normally pant. One is because the dog is happy or energetic. The other one is because they are nervous or anxious. (But heavy panting could indicate a potential health issue.)


These verbal cues indicate contentment, satisfaction, pleasure or relaxation.

Understanding your dog’s communication will lead to overall better communication and a strengthening of the bond between you

and your best friend!


Does your dog growl, howl or sigh?

Are you unsure what your dog is trying to communicate to you?

Reach out to us for personal and expert help to decipher what your dog’s body language and vocal cues are trying to communicate!

Call 480-382-0144 or send us an email for more information.

Serving Mesa, Gilbert, Tempe and East Valley areas of Arizona with Dog Training and Services!



Visit Us On Social

Recent Posts

Free Resources

Sign up for our Newsletter

Get our training, classes, and blog post updates. Don’t worry your information is kept private and will not be sold.

Sharing Is Caring


Join Our Facebook Members Group