Use Your Mommy Skills to Decipher Dog-Speak

Mothers are hardwired to interpret and respond to the sounds of their infants.  On the other hand, we humans often have trouble figuring out what our dogs are trying to tell us…because they’re a different species!  Why not put your hardwired auditory ability to work for your furbabies, too?  Your dog will thank you, and you’ll reap the benefits of a calmer, quieter home.

Bark: Pay attention to the speed and tone of the bark, and always consider context.  A high-pitched playful bark during a game of fetch is a far cry from a low, continuous bark paired with a forward lunge or a lip curl.  Anxious or bored dogs self-soothe and entertain themselves with repetitive barking.  These dogs need exercise, play, and treat toys.

Growl: A play growl accompanied by loose, wiggly movement is all in good fun.  A growl requires caution when paired with a tense body, alert ears, or a rapidly wagging upright tail.  When your dog growls, thank him rather than reprimand him—he is demonstrating valuable communication rather than going straight to a snap or bite.

Whine: Anxious dogs may whine at daycare drop-off, when left with a sitter, or when confined to their sleeping place for the night.  Sound familiar, parents of toddlers? Work with your dog using a clicker to build confidence and ease separation.

Howl: If you’ve ever owned a hound dog, you know what a howl sounds like!  A long, soulful bay expresses loneliness, alerts the owner, or chimes in with the passing fire engine.

Scream: A scream is a drawn out vocalization expressing pain, stress, or fear. Puppies sometimes scream when exposed to new handling like nail trimming. Screaming indicates the dog is experiencing intense emotions, so identify the trigger to resolve the situation.

Make sure to check the Des Moines Parent event calendar for fun events with Stephanie Peters!

About the Author

Stephanie Peters is a relationship-based dog trainer and owner of Plucky Paws, LLC.  Plucky Paws offers private in-home pet training with a specialization in family-friendly services.  As a humane educator with over a dozen years of experience, Stephanie uses the arts to teach kids of all ages about important dog-related topics like responsible pet ownership and bite prevention.

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  1. Teri

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