10 Canine Behaviors to Help You Understand Your Dog

10 Canine Behaviors to Help You Understand Your Dog

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Your dog may not be able to talk to you, but canine behavior sends clear signals to the world. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what your pup is trying to tell you. Here are ten common doggie type behaviors you may have seen in your dog. Check out what vets say your dog is trying to say to you from these behaviors.

Whether you love when your furry buddy smiles at you or how he curls up at your feet each evening, it surely melts your heart. Still, would it not be nice to know what he says to you? Let’s unravel the mystery of dog messages together today.

These Ten Canine Behaviors Send Clear Messages to You

Check out the meaning behind these canine behaviors.



1 – A toothy smile is proof that your dog really is your best friend

Has your dog ever given you a big toothy grimace when you get home from work? It’s almost scary when you see it for the first time, but it’s standard behavior in some breeds that have a more submissive nature. Your dog may immediately roll over on their back for you to scratch their tummy. This action, too, is an indication they’re submitting to you as their pack leader. Your dog might also smile when they’re playing with you.

They may have a relaxed, open mouth kind of smile, which almost looks like they’re laughing. Whatever your pup says to you with their toothy grin, you know they love being with you.

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2 – Chases their tail

  • If your dog chases her tail, it could mean that she is bored. Some breeds require lots of activity, and you may notice your dog chase her tail on days when she didn’t get a usual walk.
  • Another possibility is that your dog has parasites. The tail chasing is a reaction to itching from them.
  • Some dogs that chase their tail suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). When they’re feeling anxious or stressed out, they chase their tail for relief.
  • Long story short–if your dog chases her tail once in a while, you may need to increase their exercise. But if you notice your dog chasing her tail a lot, talk with your vet to get to the root cause.

3 – Licks your feet or face

Dogs love to lick. They especially like to lick the face and feet of their doggie parent.  It’s a standard way for them to show you their affection for you. Other times, your dog licks your face or feet because they’re trying to get your attention because they want to go outside and play.



Early in their life, a dog licks their dog parent’s feet to figure out your taste. Dogs also do this with children or visitors who come into your house. It’s their way of checking out the person to see if they are friendly.

4 – Love to chase a ball

Call it an obsession. Dogs love to chase balls. Just saying the word “ball” can send your dog into an excited state of jumping, twirling, and whining. Dogs love to play with their doggie parents because it’s their way of connecting with you.

Plus, canines instinctively love to chase. Your dog’s ancestor, the wolf, chased rabbits for food. Your dog’s love of the sport of chasing the ball replicates his past. Playing catch also makes them happy because, in a sense, they’re bringing you the “game they found.” Playing this game is a sure sign your dog loves playing with you.

5 – Canine instinct means they love to shake their toys

Speaking of their ancestors, dogs instinctively shake their toys, much like their canine relatives shook their prey thousands of years ago. When your dog shakes toys, energetically it’s a reaction to the hunting instinct within them. Your dog may also love the toy’s noise when they shake it.



So they shake it as they walk around the house, in their bed, and maybe even when they go outside until the noise drives you crazy and you hide the toy from sight. Dogs owners can relate. The shaking is cute at first but needs to take a rest at some point.

6 – Turns around several times before they lay down

Dogs have some strange behavior, and one of the most curious actions is their turning around several times before they lay down. Dog behaviorists suggest this bedtime habit comes from their ancestors. In the wild, wolves turned in circles before laying down as a way to prevent getting attacked. It’s believed that wolves sleep in a way that points their noise towards the wind so they can pick up the scent of a potential predator.

Even though your dog doesn’t need to worry about predators anymore, they turn around instinctively. Your dog also circles his bed because he wants to “mark” it as his own. Or, like you, your dog may turn around several times to check out the napping spot to see if it’s comfortable.

missing dog
Learn about a person who reunited with their dog after seeing his photo on a beer can.

7 – Twitch and yelping in their sleep

When your dog sleeps, have you seen your pooch twitch or heard yelping or growling?  You may wonder what’s going on and if this is normal canine behavior. When your dog falls asleep, they move quickly into the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. This cycle causes them to dream. While dreaming, they may have a spasm that looks like running. They may wake themselves up by barking.



Don’t worry. It’s normal for your dog to do this while dreaming. Who knows, maybe they’re dreaming of playing and running with you?

8 – Dog’s leg moves when you scratch their tummy

It’s like clockwork. When you scratch your dog’s belly, their back leg twitches. Your dog isn’t trying to impress you with a new skill.  It’s just an involuntary reaction to the belly scratch. It’s called your dog’s “scratch reflex.” When you scratch your dog’s belly, it’s an automatic response.

The scratching activates nerves under the skin connected to the spinal cord. A message is sent to the leg muscles to twitch to eliminate whatever is touching the nerves in that area. The twitching doesn’t bother your dog, he’s just along for the ride, and a belly scratch is always a good thing.

9 – Sleeps at your feet

Is there anything cuter than seeing your dog sleeping all cuddled up at your feet? Sitting close to you is your pup’s way of being close to their pack leader, which is you. Your dog is also showing their affection for you by sticking close to you. And if you have visitors in the house when your dog does this, it could be a subtle way to show that your dog does not want to share their territory with anyone.

Once in a while, your dog may just need to get your attention, especially if you’re busy with work. They sit down almost on top of you as if to say, “Would you please pay attention to me?” Whatever the reason, your dog stays so close. It’s a sweet way they show you that they need you.

10 – Tilting their head

When your dog tilts its head, doesn’t it make your heart melt? Perhaps you thought how smart your dog was to look so curious. It could be that your dog is brilliant, or it could be that your puppy is just trying to hear what you’re saying. According to the experts at the AKC, a dog has excellent hearing but sometimes can’t tell the direction a sound emits from. Thus, he or she will move their head for a clearer sound. That cute head tilt probably isn’t their rapt attention at your words, but just a practical maneuver to hear.

Some breeds are more social, and they do this to encourage their doggie parent to keep paying attention to them. So, before you sign your dog up for the prize of the smartest dog ever, just know that your pup’s sweet head tilt is just their way of turning up the volume.

Four cool canine facts that you may not know

1 – Your dog is guilt-free

Your dog may drop his eyes and look guilty after chewing your new sofa,  but in truth, it’s just your pup’s reaction to your scolding. Guilt isn’t emotion dogs can experience. Lucky them.

2 – Your canine sees in color

It’s an old wives tale that says dogs see only in black and white. They see some colors, usually blues and yellows, but red and green look similar to them. Your canine has better night vision than you, and your dog can assimilate information quicker than you, which is why your dog can catch a tennis ball at the speed of light.

3 – Beware a wagging tail

You probably thought that when your dog wags its tail, it was a friendly gesture. But notice which way your dog’s tail is wagging. If your dog’s tail wags to the right, they are happy. But if they wag their tail to the left, it’s a sign your doggie is scared. A low to the ground wag means they feel insecure, and a quick wag with tense body muscles is a sure sign of aggression. So, learn to read your dog’s tail wags so you can interpret what is going on and how you should respond.



4 – Your dog can smell disease

Dogs have the incredible ability to smell the organic compositions of the human body. They can smell diseases like cancer, diabetes, and early signs of epilepsy.

5 – Your dog gets jealous

You knew already that your dog gets jealous. Researchers agree. They put a group of dogs together and noticed that dogs didn’t like it when their doggie parents ignored them or showed attention to another dog. They became aggressive, snarling, and snapping at the invader of their territory.

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Final Thoughts on the Messages Behind Canine Behaviors

Dogs are fun to have around, but sometimes it’s hard to understand them. Hopefully, these explanations will help you know your dog better. Canine behaviors fascinate us, and now you have a better idea of what your pup is trying to tell you.



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