Dogs communicate with humans and other dogs in a number of different ways. Canine communication is fascinating and knowing how your dog communicates can help you to understand a bit more about them. It will also help during training and on walks if you know what your dog is trying to communicate and can predict their behaviour. Dogs are also very social animals, so good communication is very important. Here is some basic information about the different ways in which dogs communicate.
Dogs use sounds over long and short distances to communicate with each other. Domestic dogs have a tendency to bark more than other canine species, this is probably because lots of dog breeds have been specifically bred to bark. For example guard dogs and pet dogs that are used for security purposes.
When you think of dogs making sounds you probably think of a bark, but there are lots of different noises that dogs make. They can whimper and whine if they are in pain or want attention, they can growl as a warning or during play and lots of dogs tend to howl to call other dogs or when they are left alone. Dogs also bark for a number of different reasons such as protection, guarding, play, attention and excitement. Most owners will be able to tell the difference between a play bark and a real warning bark. Some play barks can actually sound quite menacing when the dog means no harm.
Dogs also communicate with each other through smells, this is called olfactory communication. It has been shown that dogs use urine to communicate with each other. They will urinate and leave a long lasting scent for other dogs to find.
This is probably the most important way in which dogs communicate. You can tell an awful lot about how a dog is feeling by reading their body language. Dogs are also very good at reading our body language and trying to understand what we are communicating. The main parts of a dog's body to observe are their tail, ears, heckles, stance, eyes and mouth.
When two dogs are meeting they will use body language to signal to the other dog whether or not they should approach. Fearful dogs will display a crouched body, their tail will be tucked under and their ears will probably be back. Whereas dogs that are quite happy and excited to meet the other dog will wag their tail and have a more relaxed posture. Try and observe the body language of your dog when you are out on walks and they are interacting with other dogs. You will probably start to notice a lot about what they are trying to communicate. It's also very useful to be able to recognise signs of stress in your pup, so that you know when they are unhappy. Signs of stress include things like wide eyes, yawning, scratching, digestive problems and licking.