If Dogs Could Talk: Here's what your adorable dog's barks, wags, hiccups, big eyes and nips actually mean 🐶

With National Puppy Day being celebrated this week, we’re looking at what your pet is trying to say to you when it exhibits certain behaviour.
Much of your puppy's behaviour - including the way they look at you - has hidden meaning.Much of your puppy's behaviour - including the way they look at you - has hidden meaning.
Much of your puppy's behaviour - including the way they look at you - has hidden meaning.

How many times have you caught yourself talking to your pup? Or even put on a specific voice for when you’re chatting away to them? We’ve all been there and wondered what they are thinking when you do this.

To celebrate National Puppy Day, Lorna Winter, a Director of the UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter and co-founder of puppy training app Zigzag breaks down the five most common ways your dog is communicating with you through their body language and the best way to respond.

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And if you focus on understanding your pooch's unique modes of communication you can better shower them with love, care and affection.

Here’s what she had to say.

Puppy Eyes: it’s not all treats and tummy rubs

We all know this look. The heart warming glance from your pup when they soften their eyes and squint at you. And while most of us rightly interpret this as enjoying a particular activity (or wanting another treat), puppies' eyes can tell us so much more.

When a pup is showing the whites of its eyes while looking at something, or averting their gaze, it typically is a sign that they are scared, worried and anxious - this is commonly called ‘whale eye’.

A hard stare and a furrowed brow often mean that a pup is stressed and about to react to someone or something. They might even do a little growl to let you know their feeling uncomfortable

If you do notice your pup doing this, it’s important to take note of its surroundings and try to work out what could be causing the distress.

A puppy with two tails: wagging doesn’t always equal happy

It’s common knowledge that pups use their tails to communicate, however, what isn’t common knowledge is that a wagging tail isn’t always a sign that your pup is as happy as larry. It all comes down to the side their tail is wagging. Studies have shown that a wag to the left actually means a dog is scared or feeling negative emotions. You might even notice they have tightened up their body when this happens.

It’s thought that the reason for this is because the left side of the brain controls movement on the right side of the body and vice versa. A tucked tail is also a sign that your pup is feeling unsure - it’s thought that they are trying to hide by covering up their scent glands.

The speed of the wag could also be a sign of how your pup is feeling. A slow tail way is often a sign that a dog is still assessing a situation and might not be fully comfortable, so it’s always a good idea to ensure they have space from whatever they might be unsure of.

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A fast or frantic tail wag can mean two things, either your pup is aroused and excited, or it can mean aggression. This is why it’s so important to assess the rest of your pup's body language and the surrounding environment to fully understand what they are trying to tell you.

Barking Mad: please entertain me, I’m bored!

First off, let us reiterate that barking is totally normal and all part of a pup’s natural instinct. It is their way of communicating with us and each other and can express a range of feelings.

It can often feel like your dog is barking at nothing, but it’s important to acknowledge and understand a pup’s bark and think about when or why this is happening. Can you identify any patterns?

Sometimes, it can just mean that your pup is bored and looking for a source of entertainment - for them barking feels great even if your ears disagree! If you notice this happening a lot, it is worth investing in puppy puzzles. They are brilliant toys that you can hide food in for your puppy to find and help boost mental stimulation while also keeping them quiet.

Hiccups: My food doesn’t agree with me

Like with humans, puppy hiccups can often feel like a mystery, but there are a few different causes behind them, including their food. Puppies aren’t known for much patience with food, so wolfing food down like it’s going to self-destruct in two seconds can set off the hiccups. Eating something that has made their stomach upset tends to also be a trigger for puppy hiccups. We tend to give pups a variety of treats when training so anything new to them or a bit rich can cause the hiccups to say hello.

The good news is that most of the time you won’t have to do anything, and letting them pass on their own will be the way to go about it. But there are indeed a few things you can try if your pup seems bothered by them – you know how annoying they can be.

Help them relax and breathe more slowly, stroking them, talking in a soft voice and help the breathing soften and the hiccups pass.

Rub their tummy if they roll over for a rub. Make sure you don’t force your pup onto their back though!

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Help your puppy to have a drink. This can be quite tricky to do, so we suggest you offer them a sip slowly with maybe just a couple of drops of water on a spoon.

Help them slow down when chomping on meals by using a slow feeder bowl or serving smaller meals more often. Also let them rest after a meal for about an hour before exercise so their food can go down properly.

Naughty nipping: my teeth are coming

If your puppy isn’t mouthing or nipping you when they’re small, you’re certainly in the minority. In a puppy, this behaviour is usually a sign of teething and is a very normal part of the development period. It can be a painful time for your pup, so they are often nipping to alert you to the pain and to work out their own bite strength. To help their teeth and gums (and your furniture), treat them to dental chews that are especially designed for puppies, as they are more forgiving for dogs teething.

If you’re worried that your pup is engaging in aggressive biting, there are some simple things you can do to solve this. Firstly make sure that all your pup’s needs are met - they could be trying to tell you that they’re bored, tired or are being handled in a way that they don’t like. Again, try to look for patterns in their behaviour and body language.

If your puppy’s aggressive biting has come on suddenly and you’re worried then we would always suggest talking to a vet.

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