There may be plenty of dogs in pop culture blessed with the powers of human language, but frustratingly our real-life pups have no clue how to talk the way we do. That means we have to really understand dog behavior in order to know what our dogs are thinking or feeling.
Often we may think we know what dogs want based on their expressions, but you’d be surprised how that can mislead you. Your dog won’t ever tell you himself, but our research and expertise indicates these are just 30 things your dog wishes you knew.
#1 – I can’t tell you when I’m not feeling well, so I need you to take me to the vet regularly.
Dogs don’t always exhibit the same signs of illness or discomfort that humans do, so it’s best to be on top of your vet appointments. Some vet offices will remind you when it’s time for boosters or check-ups, but not all will.
You can also learn the signs your dog isn’t feeling well and look out for those.
#2 – I may look guilty, but that’s not what I’m feeling.
When dogs make that guilty face while you scold them, it isn’t a sign of guilt. Mostly, the yelling upsets them.
#3 – If you want me to learn, reward me rather than punishing.
If you give your pup treats every time they do something good, they’ll want to keep doing that thing. Yelling at them won’t teach them anything but anxiety.
Certified professional dog trainer Emily Tronetti, MS, CPDT-KA, shared with Pawp:
“Training methods and tools that rely on discomfort, fear, or pain to change behavior can actually cause fear and aggression in the long run. Research supports that reward-based methods can effectively change your dog’s behavior and improve their welfare and well-being.”
#4 – Sorry I take my time, but please don’t rush me on bathroom breaks.
Dogs use their urine to signal their presence to other dogs, which is why they stop and pee so often. Plus, when your dog insists on sniffing every little thing on walks, they’re learning about the other dogs in the community and getting a sense of what’s happening in their neighborhood.
Not to mention, a dog’s sense of smell is about 10,000 greater than a human being’s. They get a lot out of their outdoor sniffs that they don’t get to enjoy while inside all day.
#5 – Yawning doesn’t necessarily mean I’m feeling sleepy.
Sometimes, excessive yawning may be a sign of stress. Yawns can also indicate passivity, so some dogs yawn to avoid conflict with other dogs.
#6 – That “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” saying is bogus!
Older dogs aren’t as easily distracted as a puppy, which actually makes them easier to train. At any age, a dog has an innate desire to learn.
#7 – I know you’re not that hot, but I’m overheating.
Dogs only have sweat glands in the pads of their feet, and there’s only so much panting can do. Even if you’re feeling okay in the heat, your dog may be having a harder time cooling himself down.
#8 – My play time should be a priority for you too.
Your dog needs his daily walk, and playing with him and his toys will keep him from taking his energy out on your belongings. Incorporating doggie play time into your own regular schedule is best for your dog.
#9 – I don’t think of you as an owner.
…But your dog does think of you as theirs. They also consider themselves a part of your family.
#10 – I didn’t chew your favorite thing to be mean!
For dogs, chewing on the things in front of them serves many purposes. Your dog might chew your stuff if they’re anxious or frustrated while left alone or if they’re just bored. Puppies chew while they’re teething, and some hungry dogs instinctively rip things apart looking for nutrition. Just know it isn’t meant as an insult to you!
#11 – I’m not “running away” when I instinctively bolt out the door.
Your dog doesn’t intend to abandon you, they just smell exciting outdoor smells and consider running outside an opportunity to “play” with you as you chase them. Increasing your dog’s aerobic exercise and taking them on regular walks can reduce this instinct.
#12 – If I’m acting differently, I might not be feeling well.
You know all your dog’s distinct personality quirks and behaviors. If they’re suddenly less active or not interested in their usual activities, it may be a sign of a medical issue.
#13 – I hate kennels.
Your dog would much prefer a house-sitter or someone who boards dogs in their own home when you go out of town. Kennels can cause all sorts of stresses for them, from separation from their person to social dynamics with other dogs.
#14 – I’m not a weirdo for eating poop.
Yes, it’s gross when dogs eat poop, but it is natural. Most puppies will outgrow this, but proper guidance and positive reinforcement can help end the poop eating.
#15 – Dogs should be protected in the car too!
If your dog is one of those pups who gets a thrill out of sticking his head out the car window, make sure to keep them safe just like you would any other passenger. Invest in a dog car seat or restraint.
#16 – I may be an animal, but I deserve quality food too.
Just because your dog will happily eat out of the garbage, doesn’t mean you can feed them whatever for dinner. Proper nutrition ensures a longer, healthier life for your dog. Poor diets can lead to a multitude of health problems.
#17 – Please trim my nails!
When you hear that click clicking on the floor every time he goes by, it might be time to trim the pup’s nails. Regular trimming keeps your dog comfortable and infection-free, as well as stopping those scratches on your legs when he jumps up to see you. Here are some expert doggie nail trimming tips.
#18 – You shouldn’t leave me alone all the time.
Dogs, like people, are social animals. They don’t like spending all day by themselves. Continuous boredom can also lead to destructive behaviors.
#19 – Sorry, but I have no idea what you’re saying.
Your dog doesn’t necessarily understand the words you’re throwing at them, but they can recognize your tone of voice and your body language. A dog’s vocabulary can grow to a certain size, but they probably don’t understand the true meanings of even the words they can recognize.
#20 – I age faster than you do.
Take a page from a dog’s book of life and learn to appreciate each moment you have with them. The sad truth is, medium-sized or large dogs are considered senior by the time they reach 8 years old. Smaller dogs enter old age typically around 10 years. Don’t be surprised if your pup starts showing physical signs of aging this quickly.
#21 – Yes I’m begging, but I’m not really starving.
It seems hard to believe at times, but this is one of those behaviors that prove dogs really aren’t so far removed from their wolf cousins. Wolves live on feast or famine diets, so they’re primed to eat whenever food is present.
#22 – I need rules and consistency!
When dogs get different reactions from performing the same behaviors, they feel insecure. Consistency helps your dog learn what’s right and wrong.
#23 – We should still walk in hot or cold weather, but my feet need protection.
Most of the time, your dog is perfectly fine walking around barefoot. In certain situations though, like extreme high or low temperatures or if you’re on a hike over jagged rocks, their paw pads need protecting. Invest in a pair of dog shoes for these occasions.
#24 – Even though it really seems like it sometimes, I’m not a human being.
You can’t expect your dog to follow human rules and patterns. You also shouldn’t treat their actions like they have human emotional justifications. No, your dog isn’t sleeping right next to the bed just to be spiteful! They don’t spend their entire days at home constantly wondering where you are and why you’ve left them either.
#25 – My wagging tail doesn’t always mean I’m happy.
The direction I’m wagging my tail in as well as the speed can indicate how I’m feeling. Sometimes a wagging tail means I’m anxious or fearful.
#26 – I don’t understand why you put clothes on me.
Fashion is purely a human thing, and your dog doesn’t understand that a shirt is anything but a device designed to make them uncomfortable. Don’t blame them for trying to take the hat off during your photo shoot!
#27 – I don’t remember things like you do.
If you scold your dog for poop you find on the rug that they dropped there hours ago, they won’t understand why. Dogs don’t have short-term memory, and their system for processing memories is much different than ours. They have associative memories rather than episodic ones like human beings.
#28 – Not all table scraps are meant for me.
Even though your dog’s instinct is to beg whenever there’s food, they can’t safely consume all the same things you can. Make sure you know what’s toxic to dogs before you offer them some leftovers!
#29 – Hugs aren’t hugs to me.
We naturally see this gesture as an expression of love, but for our four-legged dogs, it can be more of a limitation of their movement abilities. This position is unnatural to a dog, who may also see a hug as a sign of dominance.
# 30 – I really do love you.
It’s true! They really love you. Here are just 5 ways you can tell.