27 dog behaviors decoded for you

Golden Retriever Behavior

By Magdalena, Published on Nov 10, 2019

27 dog behaviors decoded for you

Dogs can exhibit different behaviors. Some may be straightforward while for the rest, it may be challenging to figure out. If you want a clear understanding of your canine friend and how to build a lasting relationship, you should begin by knowing the meaning behind some behaviors and how to read their language.

We welcome dogs into our lives, families and our homes to share with us our most personal moments. It is essential for you to know how it behaves when it is in your midst. This article mentions some typical dog behaviors; therefore, it will be easy to learn about how to interact and relate with your dog.

free 27 dog behaviors decoded

Dog behaviors decoded

Chewing bones

Being a carnivore, your dog loves meat, but there are reasons behind their obsession with clean bones. First, the animal loves chewing; besides, chewing alleviates their natural urge, and an added benefit is that chewing naturally cleans the teeth. Another reason is the nutritious and tasty marrow inside the bone. Dog owners should watch out for this because cooked bones may splinter when chewed and cause injuries to your pet.

Dog Howling

Dogs frequently howl to communicate with one another, just like their ancestors the wolf. No need to press the panic button, it’s a normal behavior. When dogs usually howl, it is a call for attention; they may be suffering from some type of mental anxiety, or most probably they are hurt. Sometimes, you might notice your dog howling along with high-pitched sounds like music and sirens. Current research shows that dogs may be similar to human beings when it comes to discerning music and having a preference.

Dogs chasing their tails

You may smile at the sight of your dog chasing its tail. For puppies, this behavior represents its playful nature; you may compare it to a puppy pursuing a toy. For grown-up dogs, they may have noticed you are always delighted when they do that, so they chase their tail to engage you. Nevertheless, if you see your dog nipping or compulsory chasing its tail, it may be an indicator of ill health and ensure it gets checked out by a vet. This behavior is typical in German shepherds and terriers than other dog breeds.

Chewing dirty laundry

It is not pleasant seeing your dog chewing on dirty and sweaty socks. Dogs like the feeling that comes from chewing stuff; chewing dirty laundry remind them of their owner, or it allows your dog to feel close to you in case you are not around.

The puppy-dog eyes

Unlike the obvious tail wagging, it is not easy to interpret when a dog stares at you. It actually means your dog wants your attention or to be with you. Studies indicate that prolonged eye contact with your loved ones, including pets, resulting in raised levels of Oxytocin. Increase in these levels works for both parties; for instance, an experiment carried out recently in Japan between a puppy and a human subject showed increased levels of Oxytocin by 130% and 300% respectively.

Jumping on you

Excited dogs will jump up to greet you if they are not yet trained out of the habit. It is one of the ways your dog shows you it is happy. Face sniffing is also common to show that they are trying to say hello to their taller friend. However, not everyone will fancy such a show of enthusiasm, especially when around younger kids.

Eating grass

Eating non-food items is another common behavior with canines. When done moderately, it is not a problem with a dog since it could aid with the animal’s digestion. No one is absolutely sure why a dog would gulp down grass, it may be a possibility that it wants to fill up what it misses from their nutritional intake or it could be because it likes eating grass. This behavior calls for dog owners to make sure their yard doesn’t accommodate poisonous plants.

Peeing on things

You may notice your dog lifting its leg at the exact spot when out for regular walks. The waterworks don’t indicate an overwhelming urge to pee, but it is because dogs are territorial creatures and the urine of the two genders have an individual scent. Subsequently, they will pee in small amounts to mark territories and show other dogs who is the top in the area. In case you notice your puppy peeing more than usual, it is advisable to look into the reason why; maybe it is a symptom of anxiety.

Licking your face

Your face is among the first places an affectionate dog will lick. Licking is a very vital form of communication, and it serves different purposes; it will depend on the mood of the dog. As a puppy, the first sensation it feels is the tongue of its mother, meaning all through their lives, even as they grow, dogs will use face licks for strengthening emotional bonds. It’s a normal canine behavior.

Belly rubs

Dogs will frequently roll over and show you their undercarriage to get belly rubs. It shows your pet dog thoroughly enjoys a show of affection from you. Professionals advice dog owners not to roll a dog over themselves, but to first wait for an invitation; exposing their belly is a submissive act that means the animal accepts and appreciates the dominance you have over its life.

Frenetic random activity periods

At times, your pet may crazily run around the house for no reason. The common name with this behavior is Zoomies, but some animal specialists call these episodes Frenetic random activity periods. Be reassured that the behavior is perfectly normal. According to this scientific terminology, your dog is trying to release pent-up energy. Find out what triggers this behavior in your dog and get it out of their system so that they spare your living space.

Panting in hot weather

It is not strange to see a dog with the tongue hanging out and panting in the sun when the weather becomes warmer; it happens during the summer. Dogs get hotter than humans do because of their coat. Being different from furless apes, dogs can’t be able to perspire through their skin; they instead sweat through soles of their paws. Panting is a way of regulating their body temperature, so always remember to provide your dog with plenty of water in the hot weather.

Mirrors your yawn

Amongst human beings, yawns are contagious; even thinking about yawning will make you want to yawn too. Additionally, seeing a close friend or a loved one yawning elicits the same response. Animals can catch yawns as well. Stan Rawlinson, a British dog listener, noted that mirrored yawning shows higher emotions in hounds, in fact, dogs have empathy with us when we yawn, and they yawn.

Leaning against you and giving you paws, good dog.

In case you are doing something, and you feel the extra weight of your puppy pushing against your leg all of a sudden, or it pats you with its paw, it wants your love. The behavior shows that your dog wants to be with you, and it also indicates doggy devotion. The subtle request for more affection should make you briefly forget what you are doing and shift attention to your dog.

Opening or closing mouth slightly

You should know that your dog is happy and relaxed if the mouth is somewhat opened or closed and held in the normal position. But if you discover that the mouth is closed and pulled back, it is a likely indicator that your dog is in pain, or he is frightened, stressed or submissive. You will have to be careful and closely monitor your dog to find out the exact cause of this behavior, since other dogs may be contented but still have their mouths pulled back.


When your companion bows most of the time, he wants to play. But how does a dog bow? You will notice that he lowers his head and chest to the ground as he keeps the rear body up. Some dogs will emphasize their need to play by wagging their tails and swinging their hips. This specific body language is typically known as the play bow.

Showing teeth and biting

Exercise with extra caution when you notice your canine friend starts retracting lips to show the teeth. It means that he is showing dominance or that he is aggressive; he can bite if you aren’t careful. It will further confirm that your friend is outraged when the showing of teeth is accompanied by muzzle wrinkling and snarling. It is advisable not to go anywhere close to a dog showing this type of behavior.


It is usual for any dog to dig. If you find your dog digging, you should not worry at all with this behavior. A dog may dig to uncover or bury his valuables. Other dogs will dig to create an ideal resting place for their young ones, while others can also dig holes for catching other small animals in their hiding places.

Freezing and leaning forward

The behavior of freezing and leaning forward happens when a dog feels challenged, dominant or threatened. It is also a typical behavior when eating. When you notice snarling and wagging of the tail accompanying this behavior, you must leave the dog alone since there is a high probability you are going to be attacked.


Your dog stretches mainly to show how playful they are or to show love. For instance, if you get home after being away for some time, your dog will show you he is happy when he stretches. Notably, dogs will stretch with their rear or front body close to the ground.


Pacing frequently means that your dog is bored, excited or nervous. If you see him running around you in a circle, you must know that he is playful and he wants you to join in the game. Regardless of whether dogs are bored or excited, it is vital to note that they will always run after other animals.

Going round in circles before lying down

If you start to notice your dog walking in circles just before lying down, understand that he has been searching for the most comfortable spot in the room to rest. It may possibly indicate that he is experiencing some discomfort that is forcing him to look for the best position to lie down that will not hurt his body.

Wagging the tail

A dog will always wag his tail to show happiness or friendliness. If he wags the tail rapidly when holding it down, he is showing submissiveness; if he wags the tail slowly when keeping it in the neutral position, it shows that he is alert or he wants to play. Wagging the tail while holding it high means he is confident or excited; when your dog is sad, confused or feeling sick, he will wag his tail slowly while holding it down.

Licking the genitals

It is typical behavior for animals to clean their genitals by licking them. If you see your dog doing that, then that’s normal. However, when your dog licks their genitals excessively, it a sign of urinary tract infection or it may be that he is just bored. Most of the urinary tract infections cause genital discharge and are itchy; these factors trigger genital licking behavior.

Humping and mounting

Your dog is asking for treats or seeking attention when he mounts you in a polite manner. He is most likely under stress when he humps items in the presence of other dogs. Additionally, your dog mounting other dogs is a show of dominance.

Tucking the tail between legs

If your dog holds his tail between the legs, it means that your canine friend is worried, nervous, under stress or afraid. Know that he is submissive or extremely scared when he holds his tail tightly against the belly. Dogs will show this behavior when they encounter other dominant animals, or they may show this body language when punishing them.

Holding its tail straight

When your canine friend holds his tail straight up, he is aroused, confident and excited. Some dogs will show this behavior, especially when they meet other animals or other canines. Your dog might be facing a challenge when you notice that his upright tail is slightly shaking. When the tail is at level with the body, your dog is relaxed, happy or content. If your dog is holding his tail low and there is no movement, he is showing insecurity and alertness.