How Dogs Communicate


In order for us to train our dogs and live with them happily, we need to understand how they communicate with us and with one another so that we can ‘listen’ to what they are telling us.

Equally we need to be able to communicate with them in a way that they can understand. We need to make it as easy as possible for them to understand us. Many problems between dogs and owners can occur simply because the dog doesn’t understand what the owner is trying to say.


Dogs explore the world through their noses, and their sense of smell is far better than ours. They enjoy sniffing things out and using their noses as much as possible.

Dogs mark their territory using the smell in their urine. The smell of urine also indicates the status of the dog, and if it is a bitch, that it is in season. Smellier foods such as fish or cheese are often tastier to dogs, and these will get their attention better in training class than plain biscuits.


The majority of dog to dog communication is done by body language. Dogs also read our body language much better than we can – for example the smallest change in your expression or movement could indicate to your dog that it is time for a walk, or teatime! We need to be very aware of our body postures during training at all times.

If a dog has a choice between listening to a sound or watching a visual signal they will watch the visual signal.


When training, your dog will respond better to more high pitched squeaky sounds. They view these as fun and positive. On the other hand dogs view low growly sounds as a threat and so are likely to respond to these with fear. The more excitable and happy you can sound at recall, the more likely your dog will come back to you.


When you decide to take your dog for a walk or enter training class, you are entering into a conversation with your dog. This conversation is made up of verbal and visual components. Your verbal and visual commands give your dog cues as to how to behave, and if you end the conversation your dog may well begin a conversation with someone else!

Learn to observe your dog’s body language, and be a good listener. What is your dog trying to tell you? Always remain positive and relaxed around your dog during training and walks, because if you aren’t your dog will sense this and it will reflect in his or her performance.