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Translating Puppy Talk

27. Hides treats rather than eat or chew on them. A typical instance of this behavior is a dog burying bones. Going back to nature, if you’re a dog and you’re currently replete but you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, you might stash some food as rations to be consumed at a later time. You’ll always be able to locate it with your keen sense of smell.

28. “Runs” in his sleep. With that slight paddling of limbs some dogs experience while sleeping, it is believed they are dreaming about precisely what you might think they’re dreaming about—chasing a squirrel or some other creature. Your pup could even be revisiting some great memory of the previous day, during which he ran a rodent up a tree.

29. Wags his tail. A lot of people think a wagging tail is a friendly sign, and it can be—but not always. The best way to think of a dog’s tail and its side-to-side motion is as an energy indicator. When a dog’s energy level is up or when he’s excited, his tail will wag fast. When he’s interested but not fully engaged, it might wag slowly. Then, as he becomes progressively more riveted or excited, his tail will wag progressively faster. Think of the tail as you would a car’s tachometer. It indicates how fast the animal is revving internally. Now, that can be happy revving or frightened revving or conflict revving. In other words, fast and furious tail wagging could mean the dog is “locked and loaded” and ready to charge. The wagging has to be interpreted circumstantially.

30. Puts his tail between his legs. This means submission and is an effort at appeasement. The dog is not at all sure of himself in a particular situation.

31. Sets his tail bolt upright. A dog that stiffens his tail into an upright position is showing confidence, even dominance. It’s a very forward, confident position. Some dogs, such as Chows, were bred to always have their tails up in order to always look masterful and in charge.

32. Chews socks or slippers. A dog’s gotta chew what a dog’s gotta chew. If you haven’t supplied him with appropriate chew toys, he will turn something else into his chewing gum. (Don’t run around all agitated, trying to get the item of clothing back. The dog will think the two of you are having a game of “Keep Away.”)

Note: Some dogs don’t just chew. They swallow—dirty socks, wash rags, pantyhose, and other smallish personal effects. That could cause intestinal obstructions, symptoms of which include vomiting, loss of electrolytes, shock, even death. If you see that your dog might be a swallower of such items, eliminate access to them. Otherwise, you’ll end up with expensive surgery bills to remove the swallowed fare. And we mean bills, not bill. Dogs that swallow small articles of clothing do not learn from experience that their actions lead to unpleasant and sometimes dangerous ends.

33. Sniffs people in the groin area. A dog can tell an awful lot about a person from one hit of the odor of pheromones coming from that part of the body. Even if you’ve just bathed, a dog can “read” you, even to the point of being able to detect differences between identical twins. He might even be able to tell whether you’re afraid or whether you’re a super-alpha with a lot of testosterone—a force to be reckoned with.

34. Shakes toys back and forth in his mouth. Like digging, this harks back to the appetitive phase of predatory behavior. A dog will shake the neck of his prey in order to kill it.

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Submitted by small dogs | April 8 2010 |

love this article. will certainly save me a lot of frustration from now understanding what my dogs are trying to tell me. will definitely share this at my blog.

Submitted by Australian shepherd | June 6 2012 |

This furthermore prooves that my puppy is needy....

Submitted by Bex | April 8 2014 |

There is a reason Aussies are known as the velcro dogs. Lol my Aussie is mixed with Rottweiler and boy do both personalities show. Needy or not we wouldn't have em any other way right?

Submitted by Anonymous | October 21 2012 |

I feel like this article is focusing far too much on an outdated concept of "dominance" - a puppy that climbs on a couch is probably not trying to assert his dominance, he just wants to be where the people are (not to mention that it's more comfortable up there). The information on calming signals is good though.

Submitted by Nikki | March 31 2013 |

Why does my dog like to be "swaddled" like an infant? He whines for me, I'll wrap him in a blanket and he will go right to sleep. So spoiled.

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