Canine Psychology 101: 40 Behavioral Tips And Tricks For A Healthier Human-Pup Relationship

By Garry G

This article was originally published on funcatz

Whether you’ve had dogs for as long as you can remember or have only adopted your first furry friend recently, there are always things to learn about man’s best friend. From understanding what common doggie behaviors mean to knowing how to curb annoying things like chewing, biting, and unnecessary barking, the possibilities to learn are endless — and exciting!

So, in today’s article, we’re diving deep into everything dog-related. We are giving you tips, tricks, and insights to help you bond with your dog and raise a calm, cool, and collected pup. We will also shed some light on what your dog could be trying to tell you when he chews at your clothes or bares his belly to the sky.

The True Meaning of ‘Puppy Dog Eyes’

Dogs are notorious for making the famous “puppy dog eyes,” and children have taken their lead, copying this technique to a T. Most pet owners (and parents) associate these adorable eyes with sadness, and attempt to remedy the situation with a tasty treat.

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But did you know those eyes actually indicate a longing and closeness with you? Yep! They mean that your pooch trusts and loves you. Don’t worry, though; you can still reward them with treats when they hit you with this face…after all, it’s just too irresistible!


When your dog stares at you, completely zoned in on your face like it’s a work of art they just can’t take their eyes off of, it means they want something. “But what is it?” You may ask. Luckily, it’s nothing messy like a new chew toy or a treat.

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As it turns out, your dog wants nothing more than some attention when they stare at you. So feel free to take a break from your homework or turn the TV down to give your pet some well-deserved, one-on-one affection.

Staring Intently

So you know what it means when your dog stares at you, but what does it mean when they really really stare at you? Like, can’t-break-eye-contact-for-anything stare at you? Spoiler: it means something similar but not the same thing. Hope you’re not confused yet!

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It means that they are waiting for you to tell them what to do or otherwise give them an indication of what they should be doing at that moment. They do this because they see you as the leader, the alpha, their one-and-only, which is pretty heartwarming if you think about it.

Curious But Cool As A Cucumber

It’s not uncommon for your pup to stand with an open mouth, ears up and alert, and their tail completely relaxed. You’ve probably seen it many times before, but have you ever wondered what this odd combination of seemingly mismatched gestures means?

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Well, it simply means that your best friend feels relaxed and at peace. It is a very neutral state of being that allows your dog to take in what’s happening around them and focus on the exciting things happening nearby.

Sniff Sniff

Dogs greet each other with a friendly ol’ butt sniffing on a daily basis. In fact, they sometimes greet their human companions and new humans that way, too! As odd as it seems, there has to be a good reason for it, right?

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This unusual practice is called ‘scanning.’ It helps dogs acquaint themselves with one another and with humans. When your dog greets you this way, feel free to respond with a head scratch or belly rub… there’s really no need to return the favor!

Napping Back to Back

As loving as dogs are, they won’t go to sleep around just anyone. If a dog is going to fall asleep around or against another dog or a human, it’s because they trust them 100% and feel safe enough to let their guard down in their presence.

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If your dog regularly curls up against or in front of you and goes to sleep, congratulations; they trust you! That’s a sign of a great owner-pet relationship; you should feel proud. Pat yourself on the back for this one.

The Rising Bark

If you’ve listened keenly to your dog’s barking more than once, you’ve probably noticed that it doesn’t always sound the same. In the same breath, you’ve probably wondered what the change in tone of each bark means. We’ve definitely had this thought more than once.

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Well, the rising bark that gets louder and louder and seems to go up (or have an inflection) at the end is usually a good thing. It means your dog is feeling playful and in a good mood. Often, you’ll hear dogs who are friends communicating using these rising barks.

A Sweaty Situation

Going outside on a hot day is enough to make any regular human break a sweat. Dogs on the other hand? No sweat, sir! Or is there? The common misconception is that dogs sweat through their tongues, but this isn’t true. So, how do they cool off?

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They sweat — but through their paws! It’s for this reason that canines, regardless of breed or size, appreciate a shallow kiddie pool during the summer. It allows them to wash the sweat off their paws and cool off simultaneously by submerging the hottest parts of their bodies.

Belly Sleepers

Puppies have a tendency to sleep on their bellies. However, you could catch a dog of any age sleeping this way after a good play session or a long walk in the park with their human. When a dog falls asleep like this, it indicates they were completely exhausted.

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This position results from a dog stopping for a few seconds to relax and then, essentially, passing out from sheer exhaustion! If you’re trying to tire a puppy out before bed, this position is a good indicator that you’ve achieved your goal.

The Toy Comes Too!

From the moment we’re born, we start building emotional attachments to people, places, and things around us. While not directly related to us, dogs have this in common with humans and have been known to create connections with their favorite spot on the couch, their human, or even their toys!

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So, with this in mind, don’t be surprised next time your pup wants to bring their biggest, most slobbery teddy bear with them on your morning walk. Just be careful that they don’t put their toy down and forget it somewhere!


There’s almost no need to explain what the ‘zoomies’ are because it’s the term that automatically comes out of most people’s mouths when they see their pet zooming around the house for seemingly no reason. Cats do it, dogs do it, most small pets do it, and even horses and donkeys do it!

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It’s adorable, for sure. But why do they do it? An animal exhibiting this funny behavior is just a sign that they’re healthy and getting rid of pent-up energy. Nothing to worry about, so just enjoy the show! And don’t be surprised when they suddenly stop like nothing was happening.

Curled Up and Cozy

When a dog is feeling chilly, it will naturally want to sleep in a position that conserves as much body heat as possible, which often means sleeping curled up in a little ball like a crescent moon or a baby fox.

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Your pooch will tuck its paws against its belly and wrap its tail around itself like a blanket, keeping the heat trapped and staying cozy and warm. If domesticated dogs were wild, like wolves, this position would protect their internal organs from predators while sleeping.

A Telltale Sign of Overheating

Typically, when a dog sleeps on its back with its legs in the air, it means that it is incredibly comfortable. But, when their legs are crossed over the top of their bodies (think body-in-a-coffin kind of arm-crossing), something is potentially seriously wrong.

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This position, although seemingly harmless, can indicate that the dog in question is overheating. If this is the case, the dog should be taken to a cooler area and given plenty of water. Remember that dogs have higher heat tolerance than we do, but they aren’t immune to the sun!


When your mother squints at you, it’s typically because she is trying to prove her point or give you a chance to correct something you just said. But when your dog squints at you, it means something much less menacing.

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It means that your friend wants some attention! Unless they are looking into the sun and squinting to shield their eyes, a dog squinting is almost always going to mean that they’re feeling a little needy and want a good belly rub, back scratch, or pat on the nose.

Howling at the Moon

It goes without saying that certain breeds of dogs are notorious for howling. However, howling is actually an innate instinct that all dogs have and have had since the days of their feral ancestors! Both dogs and their living relatives, wolves, engage in this behavior.

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Scientists don’t agree on why dogs howl, though. But common theories suggest that it’s a means of communication or that it’s a vocal expression used to show displeasure or happiness with something in the environment. “Triggers” such as sirens or high-pitched noises often set howling in motion.

Growling (and Lying Down)

Anytime you see a dog lying down or cowering low on the ground and growling, it’s in your best interest to back away slowly. This highly-threatening stance is one that says your canine is ready to attack and shouldn’t be touched.

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It means that your dog is feeling afraid and threatened, so much so that they are ready to pounce on the threat if it gets any closer. Lying low and close to the ground puts them in the perfect position to launch forward and defend themselves.

Sunny Side Up

A dog who sleeps in the dead bug or “sunny side up” position is one that’s enjoying truly restful sleep. This position leaves the dog’s stomach open and vulnerable, which indicates that they’re comfortable in their surroundings and that they trust those around them.

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Though they make this position look super cozy, we can tell you from personal experience that it’s definitely not all it’s made out to be. Regardless, if a dog wants to express how comfortable they are through this back-breaking sleep position, then who are we to argue?

Clothing Thief

Similarly to how you miss your loved ones, our pets, and especially dogs, feel the same when they go for long periods without seeing us. When this happens, sometimes it will get a few clothes from your closet and sleep on them just so it can smell your scent and feel reassured.

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Also, when a dog steals your most beloved shirt and makes a bed with or sucks on it, it can be an indicator that it is going through separation anxiety. When our dogs feel lonely without us, it can be calming for them to be near something that smells like us.

Panting…and Smiling?

On a hot summer day, it’s not uncommon to see your dog panting. But what’s rarer than panting is when your pup pants and smiles at the same time! Dogs don’t smile in the same sense that we do, but they can definitely look like they have a smile on their furry faces sometimes.

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When you spot this rarity, chances are that your dog is really happy! After all, why else would a dog smile except out of pure enjoyment and contentment? It can be completely heartwarming when you see this, so be prepared to melt!

Waiting for the Excitement

If there’s one thing that dogs are better at than humans, it’s sensing danger before it arrives on our doorstep. When your buddy senses danger, it may stop with its ears pointed forward and its tails pointed, staring in the direction of the potential threat.

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However, a dog may also react like this if they feel that its surroundings are slightly strange but not necessarily dangerous. For example, taking them to a dog daycare or to a new city via car could trigger this odd response the same way a burglar breaking and entering would.

Side Sleeping

Since most human beings sleep on their sides, it’s not surprising that many dogs prefer to sleep on their sides, too. When we sleep on our sides, we don’t think about how vulnerable we are. But dogs are well aware of their vulnerability in this position.

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That’s why it’s a sign of trust when your dog flops on its side to go to sleep in your presence! Although they trust you enough to expose their bellies, this position is also easy to get up from in case something exciting or scary kicks off.

The Meaning of A Happy Face

When it comes to communication with your pup, non-verbal cues are key. Since your dog can’t speak to you in English, Spanish, French, or any other language, it’s important to be able to know what it wants and needs without words.

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Luckily, a happy face like this one is easy to decipher. It quite obviously means that your pup is happy and content! Whether they are relaxing on your lap, enjoying a meal, or going for a long walk, this face signifies that you’re doing something right by your best friend.

Nosey and Unique

We all know that no two fingerprints are the same, and for dogs, the same can be said for their noses! Interestingly enough, each pooch has his or her own unique, one-of-a-kind noseprints. See, we told you some of these facts would be exciting to learn!

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With so many dogs in the world, it’s hard to imagine that none of them have the same noseprint. But if they could talk and knew that the same is said about human fingerprints, they would probably be stunned by the same thing!

Changing Sleep Habits

If you’ve been around your dog for any amount of time, you’re probably familiar with their sleeping habits. Your pup might be a ball of energy who never sleeps, or he might be the less energetic kind that prefers to walk to the food bowl instead of down the street.

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Either way, it’s important to know how much your pet sleeps because if they suddenly start sleeping more than usual, it could be indicative of a health problem. You know your dog best, so don’t be afraid to use your judgment if it starts napping too frequently.

Leg Lifting

Have you ever been out for a walk when suddenly, your eyes fall upon a dog doing its business on the side of the road? If so, the first thing you probably noticed is whether the dog lifted their leg. If it did, you can be certain that it was male.

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Male dogs lift their legs not because they don’t want to pee on themselves but because it allows them to cover more area when they’re scent-marking with their urine. It makes sense when you think about it because, honestly, what dog is going to care if they get covered in pee?

Leaning Tower of Pups

Dogs are downright adorable when they get sleepy and drowsy at the end of the day. But when they become floppy and lean on you for support at random hours during the day, it means more than just normal fatigue.

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It usually means that they trust you and want you to protect them while they take a rest. It also means the same thing if your dog does this when they’re scared. Basically, they see you as their protector — and we think that’s super sweet.

Fun Fact #1

If dogs aren’t fascinating to you, then you’re on the wrong article! But if you’re interested in them like we are, then we’re about to make you that much more invested. Did you know that dogs have a whopping 18 muscles in their ears?

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Well, it’s true! Each muscle develops separately and grows to work in tandem with every other one in the ear, allowing your dog to raise, fold, and move them in those cute ways that make us melt. Imagine what we could do with that many ear muscles!

Pooping = Protection

Other than when they’re asleep, dogs are most vulnerable when they’re doing their business. This is why so many animals have adapted to get the job done while in motion. Dogs, though, haven’t quite got the memo and still need to stop and squat.

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So, if you’ve ever wondered why your dog stares directly at you while pooping, your answer is that they’re looking to you to protect them during this vulnerable time. Before starting, they’ll probably spin to scan their surroundings for danger before squatting.

Playful Pancake

When a dog wants to play, it’ll whip out one of several telltale signs. The one pictured below is what we like to call the “pancake pose” or “the sploot.” Why? Because pups in this position sploot on the ground like a pancake!

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This pose means that your dog is waiting to respond to your next command. Whether it’s sit, stay, or fetch, a pup in this position doesn’t care; they just want to please you and be near you! Who would have thought such a random pose could mean so much?

The Green-Eyed Monster

“The Green-Eyed Monster” isn’t just a case of jealousy that affects humans. Nope! Dogs can be hit by this, too, and they often are when it comes to their favorite human showing another dog attention. Sometimes, they can even get jealous of babies and other humans!

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This is why it can be tricky to add new dogs to an established household. There’s no telling if or when jealousy will kick in or how it will present itself. But when it does, show your pup some love and patience to reassure him or her.

Dirt Bath!

While all dog lovers can agree that dogs are the best pets, were conflicted when it comes to the notorious dirt baths they so often give themselves. The rolling in mud, on the grass, or in the dirt can be a bit much.

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As an owner, you probably either love or hate this behavior, but you can rest assured that even if you hate it, it’s a sign of happiness. Dogs who roll in muck are probably feeling excited and joyous and don’t know how else to express it…so rolling will have to suffice!

What A Sneeze Means

Dogs show their affection differently ( just like their owners!), and what’s a sign of love from one dog may be a sign of something else from another. But, in general, sneezing is an action that only means one thing.

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When a dog sneezes in the middle of a play session or while they’re trying to get your attention, it means that they are excited! Why this is the default “excited” signal is up for debate, but it’s pretty cute regardless of the psychology behind it.

Man’s Best Friend from Beginning to End

People who say their pets are members of the family really mean it, and if dogs could talk, they’d probably agree wholeheartedly. Humans are, after all, the center of the domesticated dog’s world. They rely on us for everything from food and shelter to love and affection.

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That’s why, just the same way that dogs are a lifelong commitment to us, we’re one to them, too! We’re members of the pack, a treasure to be protected, and everything in between to them. So, be patient with Fido the German Shepherd when he decides that he’s a lap dog!

Two’s Company

If you thought the days of having someone follow you into the bathroom came to an end when your toddler grew up, you were wrong! That is if you have a dog. These little guys are more than happy to accompany you to the bathroom.

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Your dog may do this because they have a separation anxiety problem, or it could be because they see you as part of their pack and reckon you need protection. Since going to the bathroom is a vulnerable time for them, they see it as the same for you.

Fun Fact #2

There are an endless number of facts that we could share about man’s highly- dedicated, tail-chasing best friend. Though you’d probably know most of them, some would be completely new information, like these ones! Well, at least we hope so because they definitely were for us.

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Did you know that dogs have a third set of eyelids? Yep, they do! We don’t often notice them, but they’re there. If you pay really close attention to your pup’s eyes, you may see them move side to side on occasion.

Service Dog Appreciation

Service dogs are an important part of everyday life for thousands of people around the world. They’re used for a range of jobs, including, of course, assisting the police and caring for those with vision, hearing, or health limitations. That’s why it’s crucial to give service dogs space to work.

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When a service dog has their vest or badge on, it means that it shouldn’t be approached, even if it is the cutest dog you’ve ever seen! When they are working, random approaches by strangers can be distracting for them.

Bringing Home Fido: Tip #1

So, you’re bringing home a new fur baby! Talk about excitement! But is your home ready for your new friend? Unfortunately, we often think our homes are puppy-proofed, only to find out that we weren’t as prepared as we thought when they bite a chunk off the couch!

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Remember to keep as many items off the floor as possible and to be firm with rules even if your pup gives you the sad puppy dog eyes after being corrected. That said, give them lots of love and plenty of chances; they’re adjusting to a new way of life the same way you are.

Cat Naps

There’s no doubt about it; dogs are heart-warmingly cute when they sleep with their legs curled beneath them. They look so cozy, and often, we wonder why we can’t nap as soundly as our dogs do. Surprisingly, though, dogs in this position aren’t having a very restful sleep.

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In this posture, they can’t reach REM sleep, which means they’re basically only having a quick cat nap. They may wake up with more energy, but their nap didn’t fully restore them or provide any healing magic. Dogs often sleep like this if they’re uncertain of their surroundings.

Waiting for The Go Ahead

One behavior that every dog owner has observed at some point is when you throw a ball or fill up their food dish, and your pet just stops and stares at you. When they do this, they’re not just ignoring you or being disobedient and silly.

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Instead, they’re actually recognizing that you’re in charge and looking at you to give them the green light to chase the ball or eat their food. If your dog does this on a regular basis, it’s a neon sign that you have a great bond.

When The Tongue Hangs Loose

Also called “panting,” dogs let their tongues hang loose outside their mouths when they’re excited or hot. It’s one method of cooling themselves down but also a good sign that they’re feeling so relaxed and happy that they’re literally letting it all hang out!

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In general, a panting dog is a happy dog. But even if they’re only panting because they’re hot, chances are that later, they will turn into a sleepy dog who is content to curl up and cuddle, so everyone wins in the end.