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Woof Wednesday: Say WHAT?

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Blk poodle w-owner

What's the dog saying?

Do you speak “dog?”

Many of us get by without truly understanding what all the woofs and wags mean. We make do for two main reasons:

  1. Dogs are so smart they learn to understand us.
  2. Dogs forgive human stupidity.

Still, there are many problems caused by miscommunications. Some of ’em can get you bit–or your dog labeled “dangerous” or worse–sentenced to death.

Sammy the Westie

A raised paw means...what?

Dogs really have done it to themselves. They’ve become so loveable, and so attentive and willing to please, that humans begin assuming they’re just tiny ‘people’ in fur coats. (Never mind that’s incredibly politically incorrect and offensive…) Hey, I’m guilty, too. Calling pets “fur-kids” makes it easy to slip over that invisible line and hold them to human standards instead of–well–letting ’em be dogs.

People are primates. We’re touchy-feely, we want to hug and touch, and don’t always understand why our dogs don’t always welcome such things. And when the dog throws us all kinds of conciliatory gestures–ears down, cutting eyes sideways, wagging and slinking with a goofy grin in that “aw shucks” expression–we assume they’re guilty or apologizing for something.

Because that’s what a HUMAN would do–act guilty. And NO, “wagging my tail” is not how I threw out my back. Harumph.

min bull terrier

Another raised paw--mean the same thing?

Anyway, the pet owner in this Ask Amy installment assumed the pawing dog was apologizing. Was that right?

What do all those tail wags mean–that he’s friendly right? Yes…and no. Tail talk has many meanings. So do woofs, whines, growls and howls. Even fluffed fur can speak volumes and oh-dear-heaven, don’t get me started on Pee-Mail! (or is that pee-male, LOL!). So what do you think “pawing” might mean? Here’s a hint–it’s part of the peace-keeper pooch repertoire!

What else does your dog do that makes him look guilty? I know lots of dog-savvy folks read this blog, so what am I missing? Please add more info in the comments and we’ll make this installment super-share-able!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant (dogs/cats), award winning author of 30+ pet care titles and thrillers, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

9 responses »

  1. What a great post! Having grown up with pooches, I’ve always assumed that I knew what they were saying. Never even considered the cross-cultural primate-canine dynamic. Thanks for the insight!

    • Hey Danielle, thanks for visiting! And just think–the cat and dog also have communication issues. A dog’s wagging tail beckons “come closer” while the same signal in the cat says “stay back!” No wonder the fur sometimes flies!

  2. My dog doesn’t wiggle her tail when she’s done something wrong. Her face always looks sad to me, unless she’s panting – but her tail wags constantly so I know she’s happy. When it’s not beating me or the furniture, I know she’s done something…..

  3. Loved this post. Just spent a week with my wonderful grandpuppy Abby, who is a minpin. She’s the smartest dog ever! I can tell that by the way she loves her Grandma Jackie.

  4. And loyal and brave. Not too knowledgeable about the fact that they’re tiny, though.

  5. Pingback: Woof Wednesday: Translating Animal-Speak, There’s An Ap for That « Amy Shojai's Blog

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