Dog Speak: Understanding What Your Dog is Telling You

"Interpreting your dog's communication can at times be difficult and even a little frustrating. While it may seem as though you need the Dog Whisperer present to translate what Millie is trying to say to you, believe it or not, all you have to do is think about the context in which her actions occur and she is actually quite logical. In other words, don't over think things and you will be able to understand your dog and create a better bond with her in the process.
Dog Speak: Understanding What Your Dog is Telling You

One of the more confusing forms of communication for a new dog owner is when their dogs stomp the ground. Is Millie angry? Is she being playful? Usually no and when she is, it isn't what you think.

Playful Stomp

You are sitting on your porch reading a book. You are engrossed in your book and don't notice that Millie is trying to get your attention. She barks once. Well, you know that it's not an aggressive bark, so you don't believe she is alerting you to a stranger at the door or the potential threat of a falling leaf or a moving cloud. She barks louder, but again just one bark. You look up at her. Seeing you notice her, she barks once more and stomps the ground. She has what appears to be a big grin on her face. That means, ""Mommy, stop reading. I want you to get the Frisbee, the ball or hurl a stick at me! Let's play!!"" It is time to put the book down and play with Millie.

Run Ahead, Turn Back and Run Toward You, Stomp, Touch You and Then Keep Running

Millie and you are hiking, or are on a long walk. Initially you two are walking side by side but at some point Millie runs ahead of you. Four legs are better than two and she can cover greater distance in a shorter time than you. You still have her in your sight, so you aren't worried. The next thing you know she runs toward you, stops just short of you, stomps and nudges your hand with her nose. Again, a slight grin is on her face as her tail is up and wagging. She may or may not bark once or twice before or after she nudges you. This one ought to seem pretty obvious. It means, ""Mommy, stop getting lost in your thoughts and come on! Hurry up! You are such a slow poke!""

All dogs do this, but herding dogs in particular are known for this behavior. Consider yourself herded by your Australian Shepherd, Malinois, German Shepherd, etc. It's classic herding. This can happen indoors and inexperienced dog owners, especially those who don't realize they adopted a herding dog will interpret it as, ""Millie went after the baby!"" No, Millie is telling your toddler to hurry up. She doesn't understand that your baby is just trying out her new legs and can't walk as quickly as Millie. Most dogs, and again herders in particular, look at their pack as something to be herded. If you don't give her some sheep or horses to herd, she will herd her pack. There's nothing aggressive about it, so there's no need to train it out of her.

Stomp Three Times, Bark Three Times and Run FAST

This is something you don't really want to see Millie do. This is an indication that something or someone is at your front door or snooping around your property. This is an extremely aggressive move and one that would best serve you not to ignore. This is not the same stance Millie takes when she sees a falling leaf and feels it's a threat. While all things are potential threats to a dog, few get her stomping three times in unison with three short, yet very aggressive barks. This combination is reserved for real threats and the kind that may result in your alarm going off.

Why does Millie do this? Thinking back to what many dogs were bred for - security and protection - it is bred into the hard wiring of Millie to serve and to protect like no police force is capable of doing. Loyal only to her master, something that has the serious potential of harming you can make Millie - no matter how small and not so formidable she is - angry enough to lay down her life for you.

Interpreting Millie's language is not nearly as difficult as you might suppose. Again, just look at the context and she is actually quite articulate."

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