A lot of problems arise in households with dogs for a very simple reason: Too many humans view their dog’s behaviors through a human lens. Dogs have their own way of doing things, their own ways of communicating, and their own reasons for what they do and say. The more we work on learning about dog behaviors and communication, the better life we’ll be able to create for our dogs and the better experiences we’ll have with them.

You might think that misunderstanding common dog behaviors only happens during the early stages of having a dog but nope. Many people live with dogs their entire lives and never really bother to learn their language.

We’ll be talking about this over the coming months (or more likely years) because it’s a big area, but for now, we’ll start with basics.

Common dog behaviors and their meaning:

Head tilting

Though this can be adorable and it looks like they’re asking a question, if your dog keeps their head tilted over time, make sure to check in with the vet. It could be an ear infection. But other than that, it can have a few meanings. Your dog might just be positioning their head to see or hear better. It can also be a sign of concentration.

Chasing their tail

Again, if they’re doing this too much, take them in for a checkup. It can be an issue with their anal glands or skin. But often, it’s just a playful behavior that also happens to be pretty funny.

Scooting their butts

Speaking of anal glands (and that’s quite a phrase…), if they’re not emptying on their own, the dog will do this to try to resolve the issue. Anything else back there — itching or something stuck — can also cause them to boot scoot.

Commong dog behaviors

Licking humans

“Dog kisses” really are a sign of affection. They think we’re pretty yummy, and they are also asking for attention when they do this. If it annoys you, the behavior can be trained out of them, but hey… it’s one way to keep track of their teeth health, right?

Sniffing other dogs’ butts

Dogs smell at least 10,000 times better than humans. IMAGINE! So when they’re sniffing other dogs’ butts, they’re getting a lot of information about that dog’s life. And when they sniff humans in sometimes embarrassing ways, they’re doing the same.

Leaning against you

Dogs are super affectionate creatures, and when they lean against you, they really are doing this to get closer to you. ((aww…)) Sometimes it might mean they’re feeling fearful or anxious, but mostly, they just want to cuddle.

Circling before lying down

Just like you like your bed to be just right before you settle down for the night or a nap, a dog also wants to feel their most comfortable. They’ll circle to make sure they get in the most perfect position because they love to be cozy. They will also circle to feel secure in the space they’ve chosen to sleep.

Giving you puppy dog eyes

This means exactly what it feels like it means. Your dog loves you and trusts you and this is one way they show you — by how they gaze at you with those sweet, big eyes.

Common dog behaviors

Squinting or blinking their eyes at you

This means your dog really wants to spend some quality time with you. You could almost see it as a tad judgy — they’re telling you, HEY! ME! And maybe they’re right. Maybe you’ve not been paying enough attention to them.

Sleeping in your bed when you’re away

You can probably guess what this means. Your dog is trying to feel close to you even in your absence.

Raising a single paw

Yep… often, they are pointing to something that interests them. Sometimes this can also mean that they’re hungry or in the mood to play.

Play biting

Most common in puppies, this is just aggressive play. But it’s something you won’t want to tolerate as it can turn into a lifelong bad habit.

Jumping up on people

When they’re young, this might seem super cute, but again, this is a behavior that you won’t want to tolerate. It’s not very good manners.

Wagging their tail

Often read as happiness by most humans, tail wagging just means that the dog is feeling something intensely. They’re emotionally aroused. So it could be happiness but it could also be stress or anxiety or fear or frustration. Investigate further to figure it out. Here’s a whole article about different tail wags and what they mean.

Rolling in gross things

We’re not really sure why dogs do this, but there are some theories. They could be doing it to mask their own scent or maybe, just maybe, what smells terrible to us doesn’t smell so bad to them and it’s a sign of enjoyment.

Eating dirt

This is pretty common behavior — now and then. Dogs are literally tasting their world. But if they do it consistently, it’s time for a vet visit. It could mean they have a nutritional imbalance or a thyroid problem.

Leaving their mouth slightly open

This looks a lot like a smile and that’s because it is one. They are definitely happy and relaxed.

And you?

This is just a start of a list. We could break down dog behaviors into posture and vocal and make whole new lists! Dogs are endlessly fascinating around here.

But we’re also curious: are there behaviors you’ve never been able to figure out about your own dog or dogs you’ve known? We’d love to hear from you and maybe we can help!

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