Dog Behavior 101

Maybe you’re new to dog ownership and you’re having trouble decoding dog behavior. Or maybe you’ve had your pup for quite some time now, but you can’t seem to figure out just why they’re doing something. This is normal! Dogs aren’t humans and so sometimes their behavior can seem a little weird. Here’s our guide to understanding dog behavior!

Keep in mind that some behaviors can mean multiple things, so you should look for other indicators when decoding dog behavior. For instance, yawning can mean your dog is stressed, but if it’s the end of a long day, it can just mean your dog is simply tired. Context matters!

Tail Wagging

A wagging tail is generally a sign that your dog is happy and open to interaction.

Raised Hackles

Raised hair on your dog’s back doesn’t always mean aggression. In fact, it can also be an indicator of anxiety, excitement or prey drive. Look to the rest of your dog’s body language when decoding dog behavior with raised hackles. Are they growling? Are they hiding? Is their tail wagging?


If your pup is dragging their butt along the ground, this could be an indicator that they need their anal glands expressed (you can have our Adopt & Shop groomers do this for you!).


Dogs dig for a bunch of different reasons:

  • They’re bored
  • It cools them down
  • It’s in their genes
  • To escape
  • They’re chasing something, like a squirrel or rabbit

If you want your dog to stop digging, we first recommend making sure they’re properly exercised. Take your dog on a walk at least once a day and give them plenty of toys to play with.

Smiling and Panting

If your dog is smiling and panting, this can mean they’re happy! It can also mean that they’re hot. This is one of those instances, where context matters in decoding dog behavior, so if it’s warm out, make sure your dog has access to cool air and water.


Scratching could mean a few things. Dogs naturally scratch from time to time. It could mean they have an itch or it could mean they’re stressed.


Like stated previously, yawning can mean two things: Your dog could be stressed or they could simply be tired.


Most puppies nip when they’re little and playing. They like to explore the world with their mouths and usually they grow out of it. However, grown dogs usually only bite when they’re scared, anxious or angry.

Exposing Their Belly

Your dog rolling over on their back and exposing their belly is a sign of affection. It’s a submissive move and their way of saying, “I love you!” We highly recommend indulging them when they do this and giving them a good belly rub.


Barking is your dog’s way of sounding the alarm! Either they sense danger or they’re alerting you to something or someone’s presence.


Puppies tend to chew when they’re teething and then they grow out of this dog behavior. If your dog continues to be a heavy chewer, it’s likely that they’re doing it out of anxiety or boredom. You can discourage the behavior by making sure they get plenty of exercise and playtime.

Do you have trouble understanding dog behavior or are you a pro? Let us know on Facebook!