How Dogs Communicate

Like people, our beloved dogs have a way of communicating with each other. Perhaps some of you have heard of the so-called “calming signals.”

These signals are your dog’s body language and are used by dogs in order to calm a situation that can evolve into controversy, to appease a tension that has arisen, to remove any potential threat.

This canine language consists of a wide variety of signals involving the body, face, ears, tail and expression and movement in general.

I believe that many of you, one or more times, have returned home and your dog has chewed the sofa, destroyed your favourite pair of shoes or soiled your brand new carpet. You try to restrain your wrath, but you can’t make it. You start yelling at your dog, blaming him and saying he was a bad dog. He answers by turning his head sideways, licking his nose or even yawning. What he tries to tell you, is to calm down and stop yelling.

All dogs want to live in a calm and harmonious environment and not in a house with voices and tensions. However, when they happen to find themselves in an unpleasant situation, they try to tell us what bothers them by using their own way of communication. Unfortunately they don’t know that we are often unable to understand their language.

So what are the most common and familiar calming signals?

Head Turn

This sign may be seen in a dog that feels confined because someone hugs it, lifts it up or bends over it and looks him in the eyes.

Lip/Nose Licking

This kind of action may be difficult to catch as it usually happens really quickly. However, there is a chance you can see it occurring if you are already looking at the dog while doing it. You can notice it while you are taking a photo of your dog and it can also occur in conjunction with a head turn.


Dogs don’t just yawn when sleepy. In fact, they use yawning to calm down whether themselves, their owners, or other animals. For example, when a dog hears the word “WALK”, he usually gets excited and yawn to calm himself. Also, if there is a fuss or a fight happening at home, your dog may stretch and try to appease you through yawning.

There are some more calming signals such as:

  • Sniffing the ground
  • Eye blinking
  • Play bow
  • Walking slowly
  • Sitting
  • Lying down

There are about 30 calming signals and the best part is that we are able to use some of them directly to our dog! They can be extremely helpful sometimes. We just need to spend some time to learn and understand their body language and behave to them accordingly.

Dogs never look for trouble, all they want is love, peace and tranquillity in their daily lives. The calming signals, though, are here in order to soothe stress, anger, and avoid any collisions that may happen. So, this was just a small taste of how our dogs communicate. We, in turn, should observe them as much as possible so that we are able to enter for a while in their own magical world.

About Artemis

My passion for dogs started since I was a little girl. My decision to get involved in dog training was first taken when I met a naughty boxer puppy that was not properly socialized and she was struggling to control her impulses. Now, with over 5 years of experience, I mainly train dogs in basic obedience but I've also worked with behavior issues such as reactivity, fearfulness and aggression towards people and animals.