Meanings Behind Common Dog Behaviors Alaska Dog Works

Meanings of Common Dog Behaviors

Most dog owners wish they could communicate with their pets like they communicate with their friends and family. While we can see a handful of emotions clearly through dogs’ actions and demeanor, what our pets are thinking is still mostly a mystery to us. However, some dog behaviors can help us better understand what our furry friends are trying to tell us. Today we will dive deep and talk about dog behaviors and how they say more than you think.

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Hello, and welcome to Dog Works Radio. I am Michele Forto, and I am the lead trainer of Alaska Dog Works. On today’s podcast, we are going to talk about the meanings behind common dog behaviors that everyone should know. Let’s get started.

What Your Dog Is Really Saying When They Give You “Puppy Eyes”

Most people assume that when a dog gives you the “puppy eyes,” they’re begging or trying to look cute so that you’ll provide them with attention (or a delicious treat). However, the reality is that they are showing you love and affection.

When they look at you with innocence, it means that they love you, and it’s them giving you a hug or a kiss. So, if you catch your dog looking at you like this, it means you’re doing something right.

Your Dog Thinks Highly of You If They Sleep in Your Bed

If your four-legged friend prefers to sleep with you rather than on the floor or even in their bed, that means that you’re the number one person in your dog’s life. They want to spend as much time with you as possible, even if that means you’re sleeping.

So, if your dog tries to climb up onto the bed with you to sleep, you should consider it the ultimate compliment. More so, it would make them incredibly happy if you let them up.

Getting Tackled Is a Sign of Affection

Getting tackled by your dog when you walk through the door isn’t always the most pleasant experience. Sometimes they may unintentionally scratch you, or if they’re big enough, knock you over. However, this isn’t them trying to get your attention or merely trying to be annoying — typically, they’re just expressing how happy they are to see you.

The act of jumping on you is like a human jumping for joy. They want to show how much they’ve missed you and that they’re happy you’re home.

Your Dog Might Not Actually Want to Play Fetch

If a dog is carrying around a ball or toy in its mouth, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it wants to play fetch. Sometimes it can mean the exact opposite. Dogs will often bring toys to people they like so that you can play with it too.

They want to show it to you and let you enjoy it, too, so instinctively throwing anything your dog brings to you might hurt their feelings.

[bctt tweet=”When your dog leans on you, they’re not too lazy to stand on their own.” username=”alaskadogworks”]

Waiting at The Door

If your dog waits at the door for you when you leave your home or when you’re in another room behind a closed door, this could indicate separation anxiety. Unless you have a home camera, you may not be aware of your dog waiting at the door while you’re away.

But a vital sign that they do this while you’re out is if they follow you around while you’re home. They are also waiting on the other side of the door while you’re home. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to separation anxiety than others. Toy poodles are ranked amongst the worst.

What It Means If Your Dogs Stares at You Before You Leave

Leaving your dog behind at home can be hard to do. They know that you’re leaving, and it can make them sad. Some dogs just sit and calmly watch as you walk out the door, which can make you feel guilty. However, their calmness proves that while they are sad that you’re leaving, they are assured that you will be back.

If your dog is particularly calm when you leave them, it’s because they trust you and will patiently await your return.

Eye Movements

When it comes to dogs’ moods, they are a lot like humans. You can tell so much just by looking at their eyes. If they’re sad or tired, their eyes will hang low, and your pup will look down at the ground. If they’re excited, their eyes will be wide open, and they’ll be looking around everywhere

If they want something, they may look at you and raise their eyebrows as if asking you a question. For most dogs, looking at their eyes will tell you more than their tail will.

If Your Dog Leans on You, They’re Hugging You

Have you ever noticed your dog leaning on you whenever you’re just lounging around? It might not even be all that noticeable, but we bet your pup has put their body weight against you more than a handful of times.

This doesn’t mean that they’re lazy and can’t stand on their own. They’re actually hugging you. This is one of the ways they can connect physically with you and is something that they can initiate.

Cuddles After Eating

Does your dog like to come and cuddle after they just ate? Much like sleeping in your bed, this is another sign that you’re one of their favorite people (if not their favorite!). After a meal, they might be ready to take a nap, and they want to do it in the comforting presence of you.

A pro tip is that if your dog likes to do this, be careful about what you feed them, so you don’t have to deal with any funky smells!

Yawning Doesn’t Just Mean Your Pup Is Tired

While yawning may seem like a natural sign that an animal is tired, it’s slightly different for dogs. While we see our dogs yawn all of the time, it’s actually a treat that we get to. It means that they feel safe around you and trust you.

In the wild, a yawn is considered to be a sign of submission, so when you see your dog yawn 15 times a day, it means that they’re completely relaxed.

When Your Dog Puts One Paw up, They’re Trying to Figure Something Out

Has your dog ever been walking along and suddenly stopped, holding one of its paws up in the air? While this may look unusual, it’s totally natural. This means that they are trying to figure something out. It’s a physical action that the cogs in their brain are turning!

Usually, when they’re doing this, they’ll also be sniffing like crazy in every direction. This is them playing detective and trying to figure out something that caught their attention.

Yawning May Also Mean Your Dog Is Uncomfortable

While yawning around people that a dog knows can mean that they feel very comfortable, constant yawning in public (or where a dog is not as comfortable) can mean something entirely different. When they are yawning in public, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re sleepy and that it’s time to go home. It’s a sign that your dog may be uncomfortable or anxious.

So keep an eye open, and if your dog is doing this in an unfamiliar place, it’s probably because they’re uncomfortable.

The Reason Your Pet Wants to Lie on Your Feet is Adorable

If you have a dog, it’s not uncommon to feel them lay right on top of your feet, whether you’re sitting on the couch or at the dinner table. Some people might find this annoying at times, while others may think it’s adorable.

However, when a dog lies on your feet, the real meaning is to feel as close to you as possible and as a sign of protection. The second they feel you get up, they’ll happily get up to allow you to move.

Flicking Their Tongues ss a Way of Apologizing

Supposedly, after a dog knows that they’ve done something wrong and wants to apologize, they will approach you and flick their tongue out of their mouth as a sign of apology. This is them acknowledging that they knew they did something bad, and they’re sorry.

Typically, when a dog does this, they will also try to look as innocent as possible because they know that humans are suckers for their adorable faces, even if they just peed on the floor.

Why Your Dog Chews on the Furniture

If your dog is constantly chewing on furniture, whether they’re a puppy or not, means that they aren’t getting enough exercise and don’t know how else to get their energy out. Taking them for a walk might not solve all of your problems, but it’s a step in the right direction.

It’s usually pretty apparent when your dog isn’t getting enough exercise, which is one of the most significant signs. So, if you’re tired of your dog destroying your furniture, helping them be more active should become a priority.

Cocking Their Head to the Side

Many people talk in a higher pitch when speaking to their dogs. When you’re talking to your dog in your “doggie voice,” sometimes they will cock their head to the side like they’re trying to listen to what you’re saying.

While this may be true, it doesn’t mean they’re responding differently because of your change in voice. What they’re really trying to do is pick out certain words like “treat,” “walk,” or “outside.”

What it Means When Your Dog is Howling Away

While some people may find a dog’s howling to be particularly annoying, they aren’t just doing it to irritate you. Much like how it feels good to humans to yell or cry, howling feels the same way for dogs. It’s a release of sorts and helps them get rid of any internal feelings they may have inside.

While most people assume that dogs howl like wolves in order to assert their dominance, they’re really doing it because it feels good to do!

What it Means When Your Dog is Pacing Back and Forth

Dogs pace for a variety of reasons. Whether they are bored, nervous, or excited, they tend to pace, just like humans do. If your dog is walking in circles around you, that usually means that they are in the mood to play and want to know if you are interested too.

However, when two anxious or excited dogs meet, it is typical that they will run after each other. That doesn’t mean that one of them is running away in fear, that’s just how they play.

Why Your Dog Walks in Circles Before Lying Down

Now this is particularly interesting. Have you ever noticed that dogs sometimes walk in circles before lying down? This is a habit that they might have inherited from their wolf ancestors. Wolves do this before lying down in order to flatten any leaves or debris that may make their resting spot uncomfortable.

Although it’s unlikely that there’s much debris around your dog’s bed or on the kitchen floor, it’s an interesting habit that’s also humorous to watch them do.

Panting Helps Your Pup Cool Down

if your dog is panting relentlessly, that means that they are overheating. Panting is a way that dogs help themselves cool down since they don’t sweat like us humans. So, if a dog is aggressively panting, they’re trying to regulate their temperature and probably need some water to help as well.

If the dog isn’t hot, they might be trying to relieve pain or stress. While most dogs pant regularly, it’s essential to keep on them depending on the situation.

Barking Can Mean Different Things

A dog’s bark can mean numerous things depending on the situation, how they bark, and what they’re barking at. If a dog is barking particularly loudly and rapidly, they may be showing aggression or sensing danger and trying to alert you.

If a dog is doing short and soft barks, it can mean that they want to play and are excited. However, if you hear a dog yelp loudly, it most likely means that they’re in pain.

[bctt tweet=”Beware of a dog that wrinkles its muzzle.” username=”alaskadogworks”]

Wrinkling of the Muzzle

Unfortunately, not all dog behaviors mean that they’re happy and want to be friendly. When a dog wrinkles their muzzle, that is most likely a sign of aggression. If they go a step further to show their teeth and even snarl, you should take that as a warning to stop whatever you’re doing that is getting them worked up or remove yourself from the situation.

Actions like these mean that the dog is ready to attack at any time.

Flicking Their Ears

If a dog is flicking its ears, it means that it is listening. This is true for almost all animals. When they hear an unfamiliar sound, they will flick their ears in hopes of figuring out what the sound is that they’re hearing.

So, if you ever catch your dog flicking its ears, maybe give her a second to listen before you distract her from the mystery. It’s also super cute to watch.

Sniffing the Air

When a dog is sniffing the air, it’s most likely because they sense danger or because they are trying to track the danger or prey. When a dog is sniffing the air, they usually remain completely still and never bark or growl. They do this so they won’t be seen by their prey.

Dogs will also usually sniff other dogs or people in order to test the waters.

Exposing Their Belly Means They Respect You

If a dog exposes their belly to you, it can mean that they respect you and are being submissive to you, or that they want to play around. If you like it when your dog does this, you can encourage the behavior by rubbing their belly.

If you do this, they’ll learn that they are most likely going to get a nice pet every time. Sadly, a dog might also roll onto its back if another animal is attacking it.

[bctt tweet=”When a dog bows, it might have a different meaning than you think.” username=”alaskadogworks”]

The Sweet Reason Why Dogs Raise Their Paws at You

When your four-legged friend raises their paws, it usually means that they want something or that they desperately want to play. This behavior is most common for puppies and younger dogs. A puppy will raise its paws to touch his mother when it wants to feed.

So, if your young dog does that to you, it means that it loves you and that it wants you to pay attention to them and play.

Dogs Dig Up the Yard Out of Instinct

If you notice your dog has been digging, you shouldn’t worry about this behavior — although you might want to be concerned about your lawn! Dogs dig to either hide or uncover their valuables, whether it is a toy, bone, or anything that they want for safekeeping.

More feral dogs dig holes to find prey in underground tunnel systems or to lay their dead young in a safe place to rest. Without proper training, your dog will likely continue to dig out of instinct.

Bowing Means Your Pup Wants to Play

A dog bows by keeping the back of their body erect while lowering their head and putting it towards the ground. When a dog does this, the majority of the time, it means that they are in the mood to play. They can emphasize this desire by swinging their hips or wagging their tail wildly.

There’s not a clearer behavior that your dog wants to have some fun than this. In the dog training community, this behavior is known as the “play bow.”


For dogs, stretching doesn’t always mean that they just woke up for a nap or are trying to get limber before playtime. Stretching is a sign of affection and love towards somebody. When you walk through the door, and your dog is stretching when they see you, it’s not because they were sleeping.

They are excited to see you, and these kinds of stretches usually look similar to the play bow. So, if you see your dog stretching, go give them some love in return.

Straightened Tail

When a dog’s tail is sticking straight up, it can mean that they are confident, aroused, or excited. Some dogs display this behavior when they meet other dogs or animals. If their tail is upright and slightly shaking, it means that they are expecting a challenge.

When a dog is content, happy, or relaxed, the tail tends to be more level with the body. However, if their tail is low or between their legs, it could mean they are insecure.

A Dog’s Tail Can Say Almost as Much as Their Eyes

Although most people already know, when a dog is wagging their tail, it typically means that they are excited and extremely happy. However, if they are holding their tail down while still wagging it, they show submissiveness. This can also mean that they are confused, sad, or even unwell.

When the tail is up and wagging back and forth, it usually means they are ready to play and are very alert. However, if the tail is held in a more upright position, it can be a sign of impending aggression.

That Side-Tongue Could Be Telling You Something

It’s completely adorable when our pups have their tongues hanging out of the side of their mouths. But does that funny-looking tongue have an underlying meaning? Yes, it does! When a dog has its tongue hanging off to one side, it usually means that it’s very relaxed and happy. That’s why you probably see this behavior after fun and relaxing activities like a walk or game of fetch.

However, if your dog’s tongue hangs out of its mouth all the time, it could be a sign of trouble. This usually happens with breeds with “smushed” noses like boxers or bulldogs. If you notice anything unusual about your dog’s tongue, then take her to see the vet ASAP.

Paw Slap

If another human slaps you, you probably take offense… it’s a pretty clear sign that the person is deeply upset by something you’ve done. But a slap from a dog isn’t an indication that the pooch is angry with you. A slap can be a sign of affection or just an attempt to get your attention.

A dog slapping another dog is showing that it trusts the other pooch. It’s almost the way we’d pat each other on the back – a friendly or congratulatory move.

Rearing Up on Hind Legs

What does it mean when your dog rears up on his hind legs like a horse? It can actually mean a couple of things, depending on the circumstances. If it’s just you and your pooch hanging out, rearing up can be a sign of affection – sometimes, they really do want to reach out and give you a hug!

If the behavior happens around other dogs, it’s usually an indication that he’s feeling playful. When dogs interact while standing on their hind legs, it looks almost like they’re wrestling. Unless they’re growling or otherwise acting aggressively, there’s nothing wrong with playing this way.

Yowling or Otherwise Speaking

No, your dog isn’t trying to yodel when she makes that amusing “yeow” sound. But she might be attempting to communicate with you. Many pet owners swear that their dogs can speak.

One contributor to Whole Dog Journal shared this about their pup’s speaking habits. “Our German Shepherd rescue, the sweetest dog we have ever owned (unless you happen to be a cat), is nine. She ‘talks’ about everything! Grumbles over being denied a cat lunch, has 5-minute conversations over going out for a walk, exchanges pleasantries (you would swear) over how happy she is to see someone.”

Is Your Pet Licking Itself More Than Usual?

We all know that dogs keep themselves clean with their tongues. The chances are that if your pup gets into something messy, he’ll eventually try and clean up a bit by licking himself. But licking can also indicate that your pooch is in pain.

Excessive licking of the legs or paws, especially around the joints, is common in pets with arthritis or other uncomfortable conditions. If you see your dog licking itself more than usual (and there’s no visible wound or injury), it’s definitely worth a check-up at the vet to make sure it’s not feeling pain.

Biting Doesn’t Always Mean What You Think It Does

Most people don’t particularly enjoy it when a dog bites them. But some bites or nips, mostly if they’re done by a dog you know well, can be a sign of affection or an indication that the pup wants to play.

If you just watch playing with each other, you’ll probably see a lot of biting involved. Most of the time, it’s just done in fun, and there’s nothing aggressive behind the behavior.

Dragging its Rear End

We’ve all seen a dog dragging its rear end across the ground. At first, it’s a pretty funny sight. But this behavior, also called “scooting,” is a sign that your dog needs medical attention.

Scooting is usually a dog’s attempt to release an impacted anal sac. This condition is more common in certain breeds than others but is universally uncomfortable to the dog when it occurs. It requires draining the affected organ, which your vet can take care of.

Playing Wiggle Worm

Oh, how happy a dog looks when it’s wiggling around on its back! When a dog really gets into a good wiggle, it will kick all its legs up in the air while squirming around on its back. This action is just as joyous to a dog as you might guess it is – most of the time.

If your dog seems to be engaging in excessive wiggling behavior or if it’s focusing the movement all on one particular body part, it could be trying to reach an itch or other irritation. And in some cases, it might be trying to get your attention. Why don’t you get down on the floor with her and play for a few minutes?

Tucking the Tail Between His Legs

If you see a dog with its tail tucked down between its legs, then you’re looking at a pooch in distress. Tail-tucking is a behavior that occurs when a dog is feeling uncertain, nervous, scared, guilty, or ashamed. It’s generally not a good sign.

When your dog is doing this, do your best to reassure him and make sure he feels safe. Pet him and use a soothing voice to comfort him. Some treats can also help sweeten the deal and make him feel confident again.


“Pointing” is when a dog becomes completely still and points its snout toward something specific. This behavior is sometimes accompanied by a lifting of one of the front paws off the ground. Dogs that are bred for hunting point frequently, but almost every breed does it at times.

As veterinarian Dr. Ellen Vindell told Vet Street, “dogs are just dogs, and there are certain behaviors that probably any dog that’s a dog can do…. You’ll see a sporting dog who circles like a herding dog, and you’ll get some herding dogs who point.”