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Do Dogs Speak Chinese? How Dogs Communicate


how dogs communicate

Sometimes we think they do. Humans have been sharing their lives with dogs for approximately fifteen thousand years, according to some studies. Since we’re different species, we behave, communicate and see the world in a lot of different ways. Humans communicate essentially through speech, although non-verbal communication skills (such as knowing how to interpret body language and facial expressions) can also play a vital role in our lives. Dogs, however, focus their communicative signals on body postures. They can also communicate through sounds and scents, although these can be harder for us to correctly interpret and understand. However, the majority of dog owners can tell the difference between the various types of sounds their dog produces; they can also link a particular meaning to each one of those sounds: the high-pitched barking means Uncle John has arrived from work, whilst the repetitive whining means he’s hungry. Dogs can also howl and this is usually associated with the need for social interaction.

When it comes to body postures and facial expressions, we can classify them as affiliative, stress, aggressive and calming signals, depending on their purpose. Affiliative signals are used when the dog seeks to decrease the distance between himself and the receptor; he seeks to interact, to play and to have some fun! If a dog is displaying affiliative signals we will see that his tail is wagging freely, his body is relaxed, his eyes and mouth are also relaxed, he may be jumping, running or displaying bows.

On the other hand, stress signals are shown when the dog wants to increase the distance between himself and the other animal, person or stimulus. His body will be tense, he may be panting, yawning and blinking his eyes, he may look sleepy or move slower than usual, he’ll be sweating from his paws and his pupils will be dilated.

Calming signals are used when the dog wants to avoid a conflict, since he is actively trying to appease the receptor. These signs include yawning, licking his own lips, pulling his ears back, supporting his body weight on his back limbs and showing the white portion of the eyes. The tip of his tail may be wagging very quickly and he can also lay down on the ground and expose his abdomen. These signals can be observed when we are angry for something our dog did. He notices we’re upset and starts to display a variety of calming signals: he looks away from us, he stands still, he licks his nose and he lowers his head. Unfortunately, these signs are often interpreted as “signs of guilt”. Dogs aren’t able to feel guilt, so he’s only trying to calm us down.

If a dog is displaying aggressive signals he will growl, reveal his teeth and try to bite. Although the majority of people can easily interpret these signals, keep in mind that children don’t have that ability.

By knowing and understanding how dogs communicate we can prevent many accidents from happening. Since dogs don’t speak Chinese, we don’t need a translator. We just need to pay attention!

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Marilia Domingos
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