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Do you speak dog?

Do you speak dog?

Written by Laura V, ilume ambassador and dog behaviourist

The average person speaks more than 5000 words a day - that’s close to 4 words per minute! And whilst we talk an awful lot, it is not the only way we converse. We use a range of facial expressions, hand gestures, postures and even yawning to communicate. But what about dogs?

Dogs are definitely different to us. Although they talk, the majority of their communication comes from body language and behaviours. There are many days where my dog Chester doesn’t speak a word, but I am aware of how he is feeling, what he wants and what he thinks throughout the day.

So, when it comes to talking to our dogs, it is important that we learn the art of non-verbal communication, both in how we express ourselves and in how our dogs express themselves too.

Here are some interesting stories your dog tells you each day, some of which you’ve probably never thought about.

1. Urinating on a tree

Male and female dogs can do this, although entire males and females are the main dogs who mark their territory on objects. This can be to let others know they were there, how old they are, what their gender is and if they are available! Yes, it is like an email to all other dogs going past, and incredibly important information. Male dogs lift their legs so that they can reach higher up, making it appear as though they are bigger than they actually may be in real life. 

2. Scratching the dirt up everywhere after toileting

There are a couple of popular theories here, which include:
1) Camouflaging by covering up the spot where they went – perhaps historically from predators.
2) Spreading the pheromones as far and wide as possible, to communicate to others that they occupy that space.

3. Yawning

Almost always, dogs who yawn are relieving stress. This might be because they are anxious, afraid, or simply excited and unsure of what to expect. It is always worth noting this behaviour so that you can understand how your dog is feeling. 

4. Humping

Mounting another dog, no matter what gender can be related to sexual behaviour, even if the dog has b1een desexed. However, this is highly contextual, in which a neutered dog in a park may mount another dog not to mate with them, but as a displacement behaviour due to anxiety, excitability and poor social skills. It is important not to laugh when this happens, but also not to punish. Instead, redirect your dog onto something interesting that they feel positive control over, like a game of fetch. 

Some dogs have been known to understand up to 1000 human words. Chaser, the Border Collie in America was able to decipher between a verb and a noun. For example, she could understand the difference between putting her paw on one toy, or picking up another in her mouth. And whilst most of our companion dogs may have a smaller vocabulary than Chaser, it is important to note that they make an ongoing effort to understand our language as much as possible. So, out of respect to our very best friends for over 20,000 years, I think it’s about time we learn to speak fluent dog.