In response to New Jersey’s COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, Cape May is opening businesses and services gradually. Learn more Blog

The Language of our Dogs – Communication and Signs!

boo-e1330809691443This month’s GOOD READ – A Dog Named Boo by Lisa J. Edwards. This true, inspiring story tells us about the “little dog that could!” How one dog and one woman rescued each other and how they, along the way, transformed the lives of others. This book is “hope, resilience and the transformative power of unconditional love,”, and we all know, that’s what dogs are – UCL! One of my favorite lines in the story is; “The two of them sat together, weeping for the current tragedy and the tragedies of the past, while Annie (the dog) did her best to keep them both grounded in what is good and joyful in the human-animal bond.”

While we all understand the UCL that our dogs give to us and to others, and while research has proven that animals have documented positive effects on us and others as far as physical, mental, and emotional health, do we know how to read the signs of communication that our dogs give us? Rather than anthropomorphizing our dog’s actions and verbalizations, we can learn to read them and to understand what they tell us with their “verbal” and “non-verbal” communication with a little studying, thought, and observation.

For example, when you begin to think about some vacation time and your dog tilts his/her head to the side, wags its tail, begins to move its front paws, as if to begin running, then for sure your dog is telling you he/she wants to come to Cape May!!

Seriously, our dogs do communicate with us, we just have to learn to “get the message.” We need to remember that we cannot interpret a dog’s communication they way we would interpret a human’s communication. Our dogs even communicate how they feel and their health.

One of the messages that we very often misinterpret is when a puppy piddles by your feet when you get home after being out and about for awhile. This IS NOT a housetraining mishap but rather greeting which is a sign of submission, a recognition that you are the boss, the one in charge. If you yell or in any way try to punish your puppy for this, you only reinforce his/her need to let you know, again, that he/she recognizes you as the one in charge. If your puppy shows signs of submission, simply take the puppy outside and when he/she “finishes” peeing or goes anew, praise loudly, give a treat, give a pat on the head, and in every way reinforce “going” in the right place. The positive attention is much more effective in training than any amount of yelling or punishment.

Guinness and Bailey from BIllmae Cottage

Much of our inter-communication is verbal. We do employ “body language” but for most of us, we rely on verbal communication. Dogs do not. They DO however, read our body language and our tone of voice. You can say nasty things in a sweet voice and your dog will think you are being nice, or you can say nice things in a nasty voice and your dog will think he is in trouble, but won’t know why.

Another important communication from your dog is its health! Learn through observation what is normal for your dog, then you will be more likely to notice if there are signs of change. A dull coat could mean less than great nutrition in your dog’s diet. Shaking of the head to excess could indicate an ear infection or ear mites. My dog Guinness tends to be susceptible to ear infections so I check his ears frequently so I can give him medication BEFORE it becomes a bad problem. An increase in barking or growling in an older dog may indicate difficulty with sight or hearing.


So, the point is LISTEN to what your dog is telling you, just don’t expect the communication to be in words, and you communicate with your dog in ways he/she will understand as well. It will make you happy, healthy, and comfortable. And, get into sharing all the love your dog has to give you.

Here’s a quick and easy recipe for some treats your dog will love – to celebrate a HAPPY NEW YEAR in GREAT COMMUNICATION!

Veggie Treats

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix 1 cup of wheat germ
  3. 2 four oz. jars of chicken & veggie baby food
  4. ½ cup powdered milk
  5. Line a flat pan with parchment
  6. Roll into balls and flatten with a fork.
  7. Bake 15 minutes until brown
  8. Cool and store in fridge or freeze.