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For a good many years, dogs have been working to understand what we’re talking about, but now researchers have started listening to what the dog is saying.

New Pet Pal LogoResearchers at the University of Salford, in Manchester, England, have been observing canine behaviors and gestures to interpret what the dog really is saying. Recently, they published results of their studies in the science journal, Animal Cognition.

Of the 47 different gestures they noted, they’ve been able to understand 19 of them. Of all the thing dogs are telling us, their most frequent topic of conversation is not about food, but affection.

Dog-human communication has been a one-way street for centuries. Researchers know that puppies as young as 6 weeks can pick up on human gestures and are able to comprehend where a human is pointing As the dog ages, it responds to a variety of visual and oral signals from us, learning to pick up on our hand movements, head bobs and even our stares off toward the horizon.

But us? We have trouble comprehending even the basics. So welcome to Dog as a Second Language class as presented by the researchers.

Scratch me

When a dog does these things, most of the time its asking to be scratched and petted.

  • Rolling over in front of you
  • Pressing its nose against you or another object
  • Licking you or an object
  • Lifting a paw and placing it on you
  • Gently and repeatedly biting down on your arm
  • Shuffling slightly along the ground while rolling over
  • Lifting a back leg while laying on its side
  • Rubbing its head on you while leaning against you

Feed me

If your dog does any of these things, most likely he’s looking for food, water or a treat

  • Nuzzling your hand with his nose and nudging it toward a spot on the body
  • Holding one paw in the air while sitting
  • Turning its head on a horizontal axis, usually looking back forth from the human to an apparent object of interest
  • Standing on its hind legs
  • Using its mouth to throw a toy forward

Open the door

These gestures mostly imply a desire to go out or in.

  • Lifting both paws off the ground and resting them on an object or person
  • Jumping up and down off the ground, person or an object, usually while staying in one location

Let’s play

  • Lifting of a single front paw to briefly touch an object or person
  • Plunging headfirst underneath an object or person
  • Placing a single paw or both paws under an object to retrieve an something of apparent interest
  • Moving its entire or part of its body under an object or a person’s appendage


Source: East Bay Your dog is talking; are you listening?

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