Our dogs are communicating all the time, just not really in a language we instantly recognise. Just as we cannot understand French, if we have never learned the language, without study we will not understand the intricacies of “dog”.

So, we know we can’t speak French unless we have put in many hours to learn it and to be randomly fluent would likely be a miracle. Yet, for some reason we often have an odd (misplaced) pride about dog language, we think we should be good at it without learning, that we should just “know” why is that?

In addition to believing we just know, many people often take that perceived knowledge and create businesses on their act of “just knowing” and end up offering dog training or interpretation services based on (not much more than) their own opinion. We can’t do this, we have to learn to speak dog, just like we can’t speak French without learning it first.

As a result of taking the “just know” approach, we often miss out on how dogs think, learn and communicate their feelings to us. We perceive their communication efforts (based on our opinion) we don’t receive them as we should. So are you a perceiver or a receiver? Take a look at the pictures below to find out.

Tongue Flick

Posy, is very obvious with her tongue.
Do you ever approach a dog and see this? It’s the act of asking for space. Imagine being touched every time your housemate (or even life partner) felt like it? Whether you wanted to be or not? You are likely to say “back off buddy” in the nicest way possible. The tongue flick is “back off buddy” in action.


I feel quite sorry for this dog. His feelings and personal space seem to be being completely ignored.

When he’s not tired he’s getting concerned. The yawning dog is often responding to a trigger in the environment. Take a look at what’s going on in the area, then you will be able to tell if the yawn is simply that or something has started off anxiety for the dog. Yawning is often seen in training efforts when the dog is getting confused.


The dog here seems to be looking for any attempt of displaying avoidance, but it’s being prevented by the child. It’s awful. Whilst this picture shows a “successful” display of avoidance. The dog is panting too, another sign of unease, watch out for it.

A dog that’s unhappy with something will turn his head away. He’s avoiding eye contact or simply hoping that the worrying thing goes away. This is common when people try to get the dog to look at them, as we do with our own young, but it’s really not suitable for a dog. Eye contact in dog language often means confrontation unless you know the dog really well and gazing has been established as part of your bond.

Eye Shapes

The dog above is certainly not appreciating the woman’s direct stare.

The dog’s eye shape will become obviously different if he’s not happy. The eye will show a lot more of the white area, almost like a whale’s eye. Or a small new moon. If you are approaching a dog that you don’t know, who is showing a lot of the whites of his eyes, think again – you are likely to be putting him under stress.

Progression from whale eye is a direct stare. This dog means business and wants his space respected, usually because he’s scared. We all have a right to choose how our personal space is used, dogs included.

Posy is guarding treats, look at her scary stare! Vinny (JRT) can’t get away quickly enough. That’s a super-fast camera lens and he’s still moving quick enough to be blurry!

He reads her well. How well do you read the dogs in your life?

Dog Behaviour – Reactive or Aggressive?

What is the difference between a reactive dog and an aggressive one? Should we use the term reactive dog at all, and what does it matter anyway?

Dog Lovers and Compassion Fatigue!

What is it about working with and loving dogs that leaves people open to compassion fatigue and what can we do to protect ourselves?

Canine Communication – Lost in Translation?

How do you feel when you are conversing with someone that doesn’t listen? It’s frustrating and energy robbing isn’t it? Thankfully we can usually walk away and breathe a sigh of relief. Now, imagine being a dog that lives with people who never listen, what a life!

Reactive Dog – Where To Start!

If a barking dog at the end of the leash is a daily grind for you, read on and learn positive change.

Dog Training Rules – You Only Need Three!

Dog training rules tend to be overused, they cause tension in many cases. It’s fine to disregard the rules, it’s even better to make up your own.

Dog Training – Why Method Matters

Why do dog training methods matter when the behaviour that comes out the other end is the same?



  1. Canine Anxiety And Self-Soothing Dogs! | Canine Principles - […] side and seem to ignore someone talking to him? From a human viewpoint, we think that the dog is…
  2. Dog Behaviour Advice – Recall! | Canine Principles - […] dog by believing their fairytale based dog behaviour advice. Use common sense, learn some canine communication signals from the…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This