What’s your dog trying to tell you?

Peggy Barron

New research confirms what dog lovers have known all along: Your dog is trying to tell you something. Behaviorists say that what your dog does with his face, body and tail communicates a lot about how your dog feels or what they experience in a given situation.

Observing and learning these behaviors will not only strengthen the bond between you and your pet, but also help you address behaviors that could be symptoms of a larger issue.

I’ve collected some of the most common behaviors that could indicate something’s not right with your pup. If you notice any of these actions in your dog, it might be time to seek guidance from a certified trainer who can address the root issue, speed up training and improve your dog’s quality of life.

Avoidance. If your dog avoids you or other people, it’s likely due to something in his past that was negatively reinforced — just like a human might avoid a person or situation that led to a bad outcome.

Aggression. It’s crucial to address aggressive actions before they become more severe. Baring teeth, growling, snapping and biting usually indicate your dog is afraid of something or could have a hormonal problem. Anything beyond mild hesitation in a new situation — a pause for a few seconds, for example — could constitute a warning you should seek help from a certified trainer.

Separation anxiety. If your dog barks, paces, urinates or causes damage when left alone, he could be suffering from separation anxiety. While it might feel good to be missed, these behaviors are symptomatic of stress.

Refusal to eat. If your dog starts to refuse food for any significant length of time, it could mean they’re suffering from a significant health problem and it’s time to go see a vet.

Destructive chewing. A dog that chews or eats excessively, including non-food items, could be exhibiting a sign. For puppies, it could just mean they have incoming teeth. Excessive chewing, especially in older dogs, also could indicate they’re bored, frustrated, hungry or stressed.

Overactivity or hyperactivity. Exercise offers dogs some of the same benefits it does for humans. If your dog constantly races through the house, plays too aggressively or acts destructively, it could mean he’s not getting enough exercise. Besides controlling weight, exercise releases serotonin that leaves your dog tired and happy.

Excessive barking. Barking is one of many forms of vocal communication dogs use. There are many types of barks for different situations. Noting your dog’s body language as well as the sound of the bark can indicate your dog’s intentions and if he’s in distress.

Noise phobia. Noise-related phobia could be triggered by fireworks, thunderstorms, gunshots or strong words. It’s an irrational, intense and persistent fear response that can develop at any age and in any breed. This can cause the dog to attempt to avoid or escape from the sound or panic.

With all these issues, it’s important to remember your dog looks to you for guidance, reassurance and appropriate boundaries. It’s important to learn how to respond to your dog so you can remain calm and collected in difficult situations.

Trying to solve dog behavioral issues on your own isn’t always effective and can leave you both feeling frustrated. It also can be difficult as an insider in the household to determine why a dog behaves a certain way. In spending time with you and your pet together, an experienced certified professional trainer is more likely to identify key steps you can take to improve communication and interaction with your pet and help you to be the best dog owner you can be.