Skip to content

Healthy Pets

Font Size

What Is Your Dog Telling You?

Is he afraid? continued...

“He may look like he feels guilty, but he’s actually scared and anxious about what you might do,” Bain says.

Fear of someone your dog doesn’t know looks different.

When a dog is afraid of something or someone unfamiliar that’s coming at him, he’s likely to get into a defensive posture that signals he’s ready to fight, Horwitz says.

It’s likely that your dog will “go rigid and tall, trying to make himself look bigger than he is, and his tail will go up very high and stiff,” she says. The dog is hoping the threat will just go away.

Is he angry?

Maybe not. If your dog tears up your furniture while you’re away, you may think he's angry at you, or spiteful. But most dogs who do that fear being alone, Horwitz says. They’re displaying separation anxiety. Others do this because they don’t get enough attention or exercise. Talk with your vet, or a pet behaviorist, to come up with solutions.

Is he in pain?

Crying can be another area of misunderstanding. Many owners think a dog that’s whining is trying to signal pain, when in fact many times dogs will whine just to get you to get up from your computer and pay attention to them. They may also whine because they’re anxious, Horwitz says. If your dog is whining, check him over to make sure he’s not in pain. If you give him attention and he still doesn’t stop, call your vet.

Taking the time to learn how to read your dog will enhance your enjoyment of pet ownership, and it will make for a very content, comfortable dog, Bain says. 

“It’s imperative that pet owners understand what their dog is saying,” she says. “It’s the key to a great relationship.”

Reviewed on February 24, 2014

Today on WebMD

Puppy digging hole
Are you putting your pet at risk?
Cat looking at fish
Things we can learn from our pets.
dog and kitten
27 ways pets help your health.
Get the facts about prevention.
Woman holding puppy
Sad dog and guacamole
Siamese cat eating from bowl
cat on couch

Love your pets, hate your allergies?

Get tips for relief.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Cat People vs Dog People Slideshow
Kitten playing
Orange cat nuzzling woman
German shephard reading a book