wikiHow to Understand What Your Dog Wants

Three Methods:Noticing Physical BehaviorConnecting EmotionallyMeeting Your Dogs Needs

Your dog is your best friend. And as with any friend, you want to be able to communicate with him as well as possible. This can sometimes be difficult. As well as you know your dog, you two aren't always speaking the same language. In order to care for your dog in the best way possible, it is important to learn to understand what he is saying. You'll be able to better meet his needs, and you'll both be even happier with your friendship.

Method 1
Noticing Physical Behavior

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    Watch him move. As with people, you can tell a lot about your dog's mood by the way he walks. If he approaches you in a straight line, for example, he is being somewhat aggressive. If he takes a zig-zagging path, you is feeling friendly. Try to read your dog's movements and respond to him accordingly.[1]
    • Also pay attention to where he is standing or moving. Is he by the back door? It's possible that he is ready to go for a walk. Near his food bowl? That should indicate he's hungry.
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    Listen to the bark. A dog's bark is his voice, and he'll use it to convey a lot of different messages. Is your dog barking at prolonged intervals? This could mean that he is lonely and seeking companionship. Are his barks somewhat frantic? He could think there is a problem, and is alerting the pack.[2]
    • Dogs also bark to indicate physical pain. For instance, a series of yelps can indicate that he is in pain. Assess the situation, and call your vet, if necessary.
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    Understand destructive behavior. Most dog owners have had the unfortunate experience of coming home to find that a puppy tornado has struck. Maybe it was your favorite pair of shoes that have suffered the brunt of the damage, or maybe it was your favorite comfy sofa. Our natural response is anger when a dog exhibits destructive behavior. But instead, seek to figure out why he has chosen those actions.
    • When your dog destroys your possessions, it is likely that he is telling you two things. First, he needs more items that are "his". Invest in more toys. Second, he needs more stimulation and attention--from you.[3]
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    Look into his eyes. Just like people, a dog's eyes express a lot of his emotions--and attentions. If your dog does not hold your gaze while you are looking at him, it is possible that an aggressive outburst is coming. You would likely experience this if he is guarding a favorite spot or defending a chew toy.[4]
    • The shape of your dog's eyes can also send important messages. If they are their normal size and shape, your dog is relaxed. If he is feeling tense, his eyes may appear larger than normal.[5]
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    Watch the wag. Your dog's tail is an important indicator of how is he feeling. The wag commonly indicates that he is happy. It is also important to be aware of tail height. If he holds his tail high, he is likely excited. If the tail is positioned lower, your dog is feeling worried, submissive, or possibly even ill. [6]
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    Observe the ears. Like the tail, the position of your dog's ears can indicate shifts in mood. If he has his ears perked up, he is feeling especially alert. Ears flattened to his head are a clear signal that he is feeling frightened.[7]

Method 2
Connecting Emotionally

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    Acknowledge his needs. Your dog has emotional needs, as well as physical ones. For instance, your dog wants you to know that he will protect you. If he sits on your foot, this is an example of taking ownership. Protection is also the reason he barks at guests. [8]
    • Your dog needs you to notice when he is not behaving in his normal manner. Eating habits are particularly important indicators that something is wrong. If your dog isn't interested in food, investigate the cause.[9]
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    Feel his feelings. Just like people, dog's experience a wide range of emotions. They can exhibit grief, jealousy, or shame. Luckily, one of the most common ones for dogs is joy. It is important to be aware that your dog has legitimate emotions, and that you should treat him gently and kindly. [10]
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    Monitor your own emotions.When working to communicate with your dog, think about what is going on in your own life. A dog's moods can often reflect yours. Even more importantly, he can read your moods and actually respond to them. Pay attention the next time you smile at your dog--he knows what it means![11][12]
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    Work together. Dogs like jobs. They like to have something to do. This is especially important to some breeds, such as labs or retrievers. So work together with your dog, and find him a "job". This can be as simple as playing fetch. When you go to the dog park, make sure to always pack an object for your dog to retrieve--again and again! [13]
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    Communicate effectively. Try to avoid giving your dog mixed signals. Be consistent when rewarding him for good behavior. Likewise, don't vary when punishing him for bad behavior. Dogs take note of your actions and words, so try to communicate clearly with your pet. [14]
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    Stick to a schedule. Dogs like routine. A good way to make him feel safe and secure is to be reliable in your actions. Try to feed him at regular times. He'll also appreciate knowing when he can expect his next walk. But don't worry--he won't mind a spontaneous game of fetch!

Method 3
Meeting Your Dogs Needs

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    Provide the basics. To be a good pet owner, you obviously need to provide the essentials. This clearly means food, water, and shelter. But be aware of what your individual dog needs. Is he especially playful? Buy more toys. Do you have a large dog who needs room to roam? Make sure you can provide that.
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    Ensure his safety. This means making sure that if he gets lost or separated from you, he will be able to find someone who can help him home. Make certain to have his tags represent your (and his) important information. You might also consider having your vet microchip your dog.[15]
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    Appreciate him. Your dog has significant benefits for your emotional and physical health. Dog owners typically get more exercise, have lower blood pressure, and are less likely to become depressed. So the next time you don't feel like heading out in the cold to give your dog some exercise, just remember--he is bringing a lot to the relationship, too![16]
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    Spend time together. Just like with friends, you need to make sure that you and your dog not only hang out regularly, but that you are getting in quality time. It's not enough just to watch tv together. Engage your dog in some activities that he'll enjoy. Try fetch, chase, or hide and seek. Chances are you'll have just as much fun as your dog![17]
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    Ask for advice. Dogs and their owners can reap many benefits from seeking out a qualified trainer. Your dog's trainer can help the two of you learn to communicate better, and be a more effective team. Training classes can also help your dog gain important socialization skills. Ask around at the dog park to get some names of great trainers in your neighborhood. [18]
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    Talk to him. It all comes down to the relationship between you and your dog, so it's important to figure out what works best for the two of you. Try talking to him in different tones and figure out what he best responds to. Take note of his body language and actions to figure out whether he is "getting" what you're saying.


  • When looking for a dog, choose a breed appropriate for your lifestyle. For example, if you live in a studio apartment, do not choose a large dog who requires a lot of space.
  • Rescue a pup! You'll safe a life and gain a best friend.


  • Always use caution if your dog is exhibiting worrying behavior.

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Article Info

Categories: Working with Dogs