Becoming Fluent in Dog

What does she want from me?

I say that less about my dog than I ever have in my life.

Thanks to expert advice and hours of observation, I’m better at understanding dog than ever before. But I could still use a dictionary for certain dog idioms.

Honey the Golden Retriever tells me she doesn't want to swim in Fall Creek.

I’m trying to tell you I don’t want to swim. Don’t you understand basic doglish?

For instance, what does it mean when Honey

  • jumps up on the ottoman and stares at me when she doesn’t need an outside break, has just eaten, and I have no dirty plates that need licking
  • sleeps on the hardwood floor on a cool day despite half a dozen expensive dog beds scattered on the floor and comfy upholstered furniture
  • lies under my desk while I’m working despite looking worried I’m going to step on her every time I shift position

But it takes advanced communication skills to understand those things. So I’ll just continue working on my fluency and hopefully we’ll understand each other better in no time.

In the meantime, many people, including millions who live with dogs every day, don’t have basic dog language skills.

Honey’s trainer, Russ, posted a helpful video of dog language basics on Facebook yesterday. I have a feeling that if more people saw and understood it, dogs would lead much happier lives.

The trainers at The Family Dog made the video. On their website, they have some great tips for understanding dog body language, including a simple way to teach it to young children.

I have shared it everywhere in hopes of getting the message to someone who needs it.

Now if only they could make a video explaining what Honey is trying to tell us when she stands on my husband’s testicles.

Your Turn: Is there something your dogs do that you just can’t understand?
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  1. I watched that video yesterday and today’s second viewing was even better. This would be a wonderful resource when working on the Dog Care merit badge with our scouts.

    But yeah, speaking Doglish. Just when I think I’m getting closer one of them will do something that makes no sense to my human sensibilities. Like how the spotted one will jump on the bed to stand on me. Our eyes locked, I know he wants breakfast. Now would be good. Ok, ok, I say, are you hungry? Let’s get up. And so begins the happy dance. On my soft middle parts. Now, dog o’mine, how can I feed you when you won’t let me up? Dog logic, I don’t always get it.

  2. “Sleeps on the hardwood floor on a cool day…” Callie does the same thing, except in our house it’s linoleum. I think the carpet, the dog beds, and the upholstered furniture just make her too warm. A dog’s normal body temperature is higher than ours; and with all that beautiful golden fur she gets hot more easily than say a JRT.

    As for the staring at you when she doesn’t need to go out, has just eaten, &/or there are no plates to lick clean…Shadow does it too when she wants attention, which is pretty much 24/7. I have learned how and when to ignore the stare over the years.

    Sorry I can’t help you on the lying under your desk thing…Callie only lies under furniture during a thunderstorm, Shadow & Ducky never do.

  3. Hi Y’all!
    Wonderful video.
    My Human Papa is really quick to hear me…while my Human Mama can be busy and not paying attention to me when I need her.
    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  4. Good video. My sister sleeps on the hardwood floor all the time even though Mom has gone to a lot of trouble and expense to get her therapeutic beds. We don’t get that at all. I love all the beds in the house and really enjoy sleeping on something soft and comfy.

  5. This was a really good video on dog body language. What’s most worrisome is the shot of the dog with the child hugging it. And that’s how bites happen, sadly. 🙂

    Off to share….

  6. Great video and great post. Keep the conversation going.

  7. Great video! Dog expressions can be difficult to describe to someone who doesn’t know dogs.

    I’ve been around dogs my entire life so I believe I know them pretty well. Maya, however, does this thing where she puts her head on my lap. I know it sounds like a typical dog thing when they want affection, but Maya has a different way of asking for affection. The way she stands there with her head on my lap makes me think she wants something but I can’t always tell what that something is. Does she want out? Is she bored? Is her water bowl empty? Does she want to play? Is there something bothering her? Is she hungry? We go through this guessing game until either I figure out which one it is or until one of us gives up.

  8. An awesome video Pamela. I already shared it with a friend who is a dog trainer. I love the idea of educating children about dog behavior. They are more likely to get bitten than adults.

    I don’t think I can help you with Honey, but I will share your blog post. Thanks!

  9. oh, the number of times I wish I spoke “dog” 🙂

  10. Thanks for sharing this video! The one thing I don’t understand about our dogs is why Rodrigo always tries to hump other dogs, why Sydney doesn’t really warm up to other dogs, and why Blue likes to sleep higher on the back of the sofa.


  11. Dakota the corgi stares at me. She sits there and stares. I tell her “use your words” but she doesn’t have any. Usually I’ll look at the clock, and, amazing! It’s time for supper or the 7:00 cookie. Now our new routine is that she gets her teeth brushed before she gets her cookie.

  12. Fantastic video – I’ve subscribed to his feed. And here is a link to another of a Chihuahua guarding kittens; note his body behavior and the reaction of the bigger puppy.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Watching that video I wish I understood kitten body language. What must have been going through their heads when first the big puppy tries to play bow and then the chihuahua raises a fuss.

  13. great video, great post. I am becoming more fluent in dog, but now wish I could figure out the causes of uneasiness.

  14. Maybe Honey just wants to play ball? Sorry, couldn’t resist! I’m not too bad at speaking dog but I do wish Frankie would answer me in human when I ask him why he hates cyclists who wear dark clothing. He can’t restrain himself from hurling abuse at them as we drive past.

    • Bwa ha ha! My husband wanted to comment something to the effect of her wanting to take a stand on a firm and tremendous foundation. But I like yours better.:)

      Funny that Frankie doesn’t like cyclists in dark clothing. Most of us laugh at the ones who wear day-glo colors.


  1. […] Family Dog: Dog Training for the Whole Family (My thanks to Pamela from Something Wagging This Way Comes for sharing this one on her blog. They have a great video you can share with children to help them […]

  2. […] A neat video the clearly explains various dog behaviors. […]