Communication is your dog’s foundation of social behavior. Your dog communicates using his body, facial expression and sounds when he is feeling a variety of different emotions. There are various components that create your dog’s unique language. Exploring the way dogs communicate will help you understand your dog better as well as observe his extraordinary skills when communicating with other dogs.
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Communication by Scent
Your dog has up to 250 million scent receptor cells that allow him to explore the world through his sense of smell.
This extraordinary sense of smell also allows your dog to have a unique tracking ability. In addition, it gives your dog the ability to smell secretions of pheromones in other dogs. Your dog has glands that are located throughout his body including his anal region, side of the head, at the base of the tail, between the toes and between the legs. These glands release pheromones which are meant as a message to other dogs.
Your dog’s urine and feces also hold a scent that other dogs can smell. Dogs who place their scent in certain areas or on certain objects are doing so to either mark their territory or to send a message that they are appealing to other dogs.
It is well known that dogs can hear higher frequencies when compared to the human ear.
Your dog’s superior hearing skills allow him to localize sound and judge proper distance while using both ears. If your dog has ears that are upright he will have better hearing then dogs that have floppy ears. Your dog’s vocalization, also known as his bark, expresses to other dogs in the area or at a far distance what he is feeling.
Your dog’s bark can tell other dogs that he is feeling aggressive, defensive, social, playful, experiencing pain, anxious, fearful, happy, depressed, scared dominant, tired, submissive or predatory.
In addition to your dog barking to express how he feels to other dogs near and far, he will also use verbal sounds such as whimpers, growls, grunts, howls, whines and even snapping of his teeth.
Visual Communication and Body Language
Although vision varies depending on the breed of your dog, in general, most dogs have 40 to 60 degrees of binocular field vision.
Your dog’s eyes contain rods in the retina and tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back through the rods, giving your dog the capability of seeing better in the dark compared to humans. Your dog also has an impressive ability to see in the day light. Your dog’s visual communication is an important part of his communication skills. It allows him to observe the body language of other dogs and detect what the other dog is signaling and communicating to him.
When your dog is looking at another dog either from a far distance or close up, he is observing several things, including the other dog’s posture, the position of his tail, feet, head, mouth and ears, the size of the pupil in the eyes, which direction the eyes are staring and the exposure of teeth.
The different types of body language will tell your dog the intentions the other dog has towards him and it provides your dog the opportunity to react properly.
Communication by Touch
Your dog is able to sense touch, temperature, pressure, position, pain and body movement through the receptors in his skin.
These receptors are located at the base of every single hair on your dog’s body, including his whiskers which are the most sensitive. When your dog meets another dog there is a behavior ritual that goes on. This is a natural instinct and usually involves smelling each other and observing each other. Touch is usually not involved until both dogs are either in a physical fight with each other or have agreed to play nicely together.
Aggressive Body Language
At times, your dog may feel defensively aggressive towards another dog. This usually takes pet parents off guard, because it is a rare occurrence. Your dog will give the other dog plenty of warning signs of the possibility of aggressive action. Your dog is actually doing everything he can not to get into a physical altercation with the other dog. Your dog prefers for the other dog just to back down and walk away from the situation.
Typical physical signs that your dog is going to be aggressive towards another dog are identical to the dominant body posture mentioned above. In addition to displaying the dominant body posture your dog will wrinkle his nose, bark, growl and draw his lips back to expose his gums and teeth.
Your dog will use all of his senses in addition to displaying body language and verbal sounds to communicate with other dogs. Your dog is born with the natural ability and instinct to communicate with other dogs in a way that is understood by all breeds. Observing this unique level of communication is captivating and interesting to pet parents who wish to understand their dog’s communication style.