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Doggy Sign Language

Updated on January 1, 2011

What Your Friend May Be Saying

Dogs Talk?

Although dogs do not possess the ability to say words, we know they understand them.  Spend one minute with a well trained herding dog or a well trained police dog and you'll appreciate the dog's grasp of our language.

But do we as humans understand their language?  Dogs "talk" to one another largely by their body language.  As adopted members of their pack, they attempt to talk to us, too.

A List of Signs

Bowing--"Let's play!"

Shaking off--"wet" or "water."  A dog may shake off even when it isn't wet.  Sometimes it is describing the fact that it's raining outside, or it may be asking for a drink.

Ears laid back--"Back off!  I'm mad!"

Teeth showing--see above

Pawing--This one is more variable.  It usually means, "I want something."  Sometimes it's difficult to decipher what the dog is asking for.  One of my chihuahuas will paw or stand on her hind legs and paw the air with both feet together.  I will ask, "What do you want?"  She responds, "Sniff, sneeze!"  I say, "Do you want your dinner?"  Sniff, sneeze.  "Do you want to go out?"  She races to the door.  I guessed it!

Sneezing/snoofing--a sort of fake sneezing sound forced through the nose.  Dogs sometimes mean, "Hey, let's go!" although sometimes they do this back and forth in a volley as though they are keeping tabs on each others' whereabouts.  If I imitate the sound, they do it back to me in answer.  Still studying that one.

Rolling on back--"I submit."  Many dogs do this when they ask for a belly rub.  A dog with a dominant personality will never do it.

Bop on the head: "Pay attention to me!"  If a dog is interested in investigating smells and a younger one who wants to play is trying to get his or her attention, he achieves it by bopping his playmate on the head.  If the dog who got bopped is willing to play, the games begin.  If he or she isn't, a "back off" snarl may be heard.

Ears back but not laid flat: Sad or upset.

Ears to the side: Relaxed.

Ears straight up with the tips close together: Perplexed.

Ears forward: Paying attention.

Tail up: Good mood.

Tail tucked: angry/scared.

Tail wagging: Everybody knows that one!


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    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I'm currently reading the book THE GENIUS OF DOGS, by David Hare and Vanessa Woods, which explains why dogs are intelligent and get along so well with humans. It's fascinating, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know why your furry friend responds to you in the ways she or he does.


    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Yes, dogs are indeed wonderful! :)

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Enjoyable hub and oh, so true.

      My dog is a miniature Schnauzer, a breed that uses various "voices" when she talks. She's so funny when she grumbles, a sound that's like a grouchy person muttering. She does that when I make her stop barking at someone outside in the neighborhood. She also makes a snorting sound when she's not too happy about something.

      Like schoolmarm's dogs, mine learned to spell words such as "treat", "dinner" and "go." (She loves to ride in the car, and I ask her if she wants to "go" when I want to take her with me.)

      She sleeps with me (on her own pillow on her side of the bed with the cover pulled up to her neck). When she wakes every morning, she kicks off the covers, rolls on her back and holds her front paws up to her chin. That's her request for her "good morning" tummy tickle, and she always gets it. She reminds me of how much fun toddlers are when they first wake up.

      Aren't dogs wonderful?

    • Anaya M. Baker profile image

      Anaya M. Baker 6 years ago from North Carolina

      My beagle does the "snoofing" thing too! Sometimes he does it to wake me up after a nap on the couch. Other times, I'm just not so sure...He's a bit strange though.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      This is fabulous! I just had to smile as I connected my dog to what you have written. Love it! Up!

    • SamboRambo profile image

      Samuel E. Richardson 6 years ago from Salt Lake City, Utah

      How about this one: A dog barks from behind its fence, while wagging its tail. I think it's saying, "I'm here, and I wanna play!"

    • schoolmarm profile image

      schoolmarm 7 years ago from Florida

      My dogs learned how we spell "treat" and "out" so we now say those 2 words in pig-Latin. We'll see how long it takes them to figure this out! Great hub!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      You're absolutely right on dogs understanding words. There was a TV special about Dog Genius which stated they know about 165 words. That seems limited to me. Mine act like they know every word I speak! We even have to spell words to avoid instant reactions on their part, like "T-R-E-A-T" and "O-U-T" or they go crazy. Enjoyable read here.

    • Juiceyme profile image

      Juiceyme 7 years ago

      Like your hub. I thought I was the only one that could talk to dogs and they talk back! My neighbors think I'm the crazy lady in the neighbor hood that talks to animals. LOL.....

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 7 years ago from US

      That sounds true enough and believe it or not I know my cat understands words. She is 16 years old though so maybe that makes her as smart as a dog. I say give me a kiss and she comes and sticks her face up to mine and i just smooch at her, she knows it. If I say wanna go outside? She either runs to the door or runs and hides. I won't bore you with more but she understands many words. Great hub,