Hidden meanings behind common dog behaviors that everyone should know

Our dogs can do some strange things, and sadly- most people just assume dogs think like people. Through no fault of their own, children often have a hard time understanding the difference. The truth is, dogs do many strange things that most people would never even think of!

Exposing the Belly

There isn’t a dog owner alive who hasn’t seen this one, and most of us interpret it the wrong way still. When we see our beloved pooch roll over on his belly, legs in the air and a goofy grin on his face, we usually automatically think two words: ‘Belly Rub’. Most people simply assume their dog wants attention, or scratching, and they very well might.

Have you ever seen a smaller dog roll over on his or her back for a larger? Maybe your dog does this when he thinks you are upset? The larger dog sure isn’t going to scratch the smaller one’s belly! Believe it or not, there is a much more instinctual meaning here.

In the wild, in order to avoid a potentially lethal confrontation, a wolf or wild dog will often expose his ‘vulnerable areas’, like his neck or belly, as a form of submission. It is like he is saying “Your bigger and stronger, I know, you win!” In fact, if you were to observe a pack of wolves in a wild setting, you would see behaviors like this often. This is a submissive posture.

The "Yawn"

When people see a dog yawn, most automatically think he must be tired. After all, that is what a human yawn means. Why should dogs behave any differently?

Look a little deeper, and ask yourself what is going on or what you are doing most of the time when your dog yawns. Is he completely happy, or is something slightly upsetting going on? Your dog might yawn when he is being hugged or when your face is close to his for a kiss, for example.

Though your dog might actually be tired, yawning can and often does indicate stress or some degree of discomfort. If your dog tends to yawn more often when a certain something is going on, maybe that something should stop.

Laying at Your Feet

Whether it is the hard tile floor or carpeting, we often see our dogs lie at our feet. If at the veterinarian’s office, or maybe after some sort of injury, our dogs might want to be close to us. As owners, we probably just think our dogs like us, which is part of the reason.

The second is an instinct stretching back hundreds of thousands of years, to the times of early wolves. In the case of injury or insecurity, for example, dogs will seek a familiar pack ‘family’ member for protection.


Your Dog Doesn’t Bury Toys to Upset You

Many dog owners are plagued by ugly holes in their backyard, sometimes finding prizes within. We’ve all heard of the dogs burying toys or bones, but most of us just think it is for fun.

There are several reasons why a dog might dig. Siberian Husky owners, for example, are no stranger to holes in their yard! There is usually only one reason why a dog might bury a toy or bone, or even food, and it isn’t exactly because they are having fun.

Look back thousands of years ago, before the first wolves began living off of man’s leftovers, eventually leading to the evolution of today’s dog. Wolves would frequently go for several days without eating, so their meals were very precious to them. Of course, there were always other predators ready to steal an easy prize they didn’t actually have to work for.

So these wolves would either guard their kills, or bury portions of them. So you see, when your dog buries his toys, he doesn’t want anyone else to get them and is only following instinct.

Howling- at the Moon?

We’ve all seen those 90’s werewolf movies with the wolves constantly howling directly towards the moon, or at least most millenials out there have. Now, when you ask the average person why dogs or wolves howl, he’ll probably tell you it is because they are sad.

The reality is quite different. Though not all dogs howl, some do, and wolves learn to howl when they are young. Despite what you might think, this has nothing to do with the moon. Howling doesn’t necessarily mean an animal is ‘sad’, however sad it may sound to humans.

Howling is in fact a very diverse form of communication! Though not as complex as human speech, wolves do howl for different reasons and have different howls to mean different things. This form of communication is so diverse, human biologists don’t fully understand it even to this day!

As far as moonlight goes, wolves might howl more often in the evening due to activity levels, thanks to the light the moon provides, not simply because the moon is there. Both dogs and wolves have a reflective membrane in their eyes (why they may seem to glow), helping them to see in times of low light, which helps explain increased activity in the evenings.


All that Panting

Most pet owners do know that dogs perspire through panting, and mostly don’t sweat like humans. Dogs do have sweat glands at the bottoms of their paw pads though, and some hairless breeds, like the Chinese Crested, do actually sweat all over their bodies!

However, excessive panting can be a sign of stress or uncomfortability, too. Since both look about the same to humans, you’ll need to consider other forms of body language and cues (like yawning) to determine if your pup is actually stressed or not!

Tail Wagging Doesn’t Always Mean Joy

Most people already know dogs primarily communicate via body language, and their tails can be like antennas! In fact, the first thing people notice, other than that sweet face, is the tail. The way the tail is held can mean several different things, and where only some dog owners can distinguish between all of them, most people miss subtle cues.

Yes, a wagging tail often does indicate happiness, and rapid wagging tan means excitement! A slow or half wag, on the other hand, can mean curiosity or be a prelude to aggression. Fortunately, most dogs aren’t ever aggressive toward kind human friends!



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