Given that a well-trained dog can learn to differentiate between, and respond appropriately to, hundreds of commands from her human family, it is only right that we should make an effort to understand what our canine companions are trying to say to us. We all know that a growl is a warning, and a yelp is a sound of distress, but there are so many verbal signals in between those two sounds, and they all communicate different messages. There are also many nonverbal signals our pups give us before they make a peep. Below are a few of the most common bark signals and some body language cues, to help you to understand what your dog is trying to say.

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Arousal or excitement: Both can be caused by many factors including age (young dogs have more energy), confinement, lack of physical and mental outlets, and personality. Excitement is often a response to something the dog likes: such as a person, dog, or toy. For example, a dog with soft, relaxed body, eyes, mouth and a wagging tail that jumps up for attention is responding to a positive stimulus. However, arousal behaviors can also be a response to unfavorable stimulus such as, an unwanted person, dog, or situation. Negative arousal signals are usually coupled with fear, aggression, and/or anxiety. Common behaviors seen in aroused dogs are jumping, mounting, and mouthing. When a dog is aroused or excited, the fur along the back is often standing up, the ears are generally forward or at attention, and the body stance is upward and erect. The tail is often up and wagging stiffly, and the eyes are open wide and very focused. Some dogs will also bark or lunge.

This article was originally published on October 8th, 2015

Parts of this article are excerpts from’s book, The Total Dog Manual. For more great tips on all things dog, pre-order the book now on Amazon!