Understanding common dog behaviors

words Al Woods

Understanding common dog behaviors

Have you ever wondered what your dog or pet is thinking? If you have a dog, chances are you’ve wondered at one point or another what is going on in the mind of your furry little friend. Some dogs have incredibly unique behaviors, but all dogs have a few similar behaviors which they use to attempt to communicate with you and other dogs.

Dogs have a number of common mannerisms which can help you determine what they are thinking. This article will help you recognize and understand common dog behaviors, and what they mean for your relationship with your special friend. Sometimes it may seem obvious to us what dogs are feeling, but you may be surprised by a few common behaviors and their underlying causes.


Panting is a behavior which almost all dogs exhibit at one point or another.  Panting in dogs is essentially the same as seen in humans, excessive loud breathing, with an open mouth. Panting in humans can generally be indicative of fatigue, shortness of breath, or physical exertion in humans. Dogs can also pant for similar reasons, such as physical exertion from playing or running. However, dogs also pant for a different reason that humans do not experience. Panting can help to cool a dog off in the heat of summer, or if they have a high body temperature for another reason. This serves as their means of regulating body temperature. For this reason, it is common for dogs to perfectly relax and lay down, but still panting for long periods of time.


Barking is an extremely common behavior which all dogs exhibit, for better or for worse. When dogs bark, it is similar to babies’ cry, it usually means they need your attention for some reason, but they are unable to verbalize exactly what it is they need to communicate to you. If a dog is barking at you it can greatly depend on the temperament and personality of the dog, what message they are trying to convey. For example, some dogs just bark when they’re bored and want your attention; other dogs that are more likely protective, bark to raise an alarm at the first signs of possible danger.

Understanding dog behavior


Howling is another very common and natural behavior which all dogs will do at some point in their life. Howling is a way in which dogs communicate with one another. If your dog is howling persistently or you are interested in the topic, then you might want to read more here. Some dogs can howl for reasons which are quite funny, such as hearing someone play an instrument, or howling along with recordings of music. It is pretty common for dogs to howl after hearing the sound of another dog howling as well. Howling can be endearing or annoying behavior depending on the frequency and volume of the howling. However, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if this becomes a real issue with your dog.


Tail Wagging is a common behavior that all dogs display on a regular basis. Generally people associate tail wagging with positive emotions that they believe their dog is experiencing, which tends to hold true under examination. It can be an incredibly cute sign of affection to see your dog waiting for you with their tail wagging when you return to your home. However, tail wagging can sometimes be a problematic behavior. If you have a large dog who has a long, powerful tail, then you know about the potential struggles that these cute but large creatures can cause. When large dogs with long tails become excited and begin wagging their tails, it can sometimes cause a lot of damage to the surrounding area because dogs are usually not spatially and self aware enough to realize that they are doing something undesirable. But you need to be aware that tail wagging has some other meanings as well. For example, a study in 2013 shows that a right-wagging tail relaxes some dogs, while a left-wagging tail makes them stressed.

After reading this article you will hopefully have an easier time discerning what your dog is trying to tell you with their behavior. You have to provide them with all the essentials that they need to thrive and survive. For this reason it is never a bad idea to try to understand what the underlying cause is behind your dog’s behavior. Knowing what your dog is thinking will make it easier to give them the help, resources, playtime, cuddles, or food that they need to live a long and happy life. Whether your pup likes to express themselves through barking, tail wagging, howling or other behavior, this guide should help to inform you and create a stronger relationship between you and your pet!


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