4 min read


Can Dogs Understand Human Body Language?



4 min read


Can Dogs Understand Human Body Language?


Have you ever wondered if your dog understands body language? It can be difficult to imagine how your dog interprets your movements, but it is something that you may want to consider, especially during training and socialization. Body language is important in interacting with other humans, so it can be equally important when communicating with dogs, and maybe even other animals.

If the way you move means something to your dog, don’t you want to know what they think? Let’s find out just what dogs take away from human body language.


Signs of Dogs Understading Human Body Language

Dogs are actually quite remarkable at reading human body language. In the same way that humans learn to read their dogs’ body language, dogs learn how to interpret their humans’ body language. Have you ever seen a dog cower when someone raises their hand or wag their tale when their owner smiles directly at them? These are great indicators of how dogs have learned to understand the complexities of human body language.

A few signs that your dog understands your body language include that your dog understands non-verbal commands or cues and that your dog can sense your mood based on your body language. Since your dog can communicate with you directly, it can be difficult to know for sure if they can sense your mood, but if you watch how your dog responds to your emotions and gestures, you will probably see distinct signs that your pooch knows when you are sad, happy, or angry based on non-verbal information.

The best way for you to know if your dog can understand body language is to observe their body language. Do they wag their tail when you are smiling, but put their tail between their legs when you are crying? This means that your dog understands your body language.

If you notice that your canine seems to understand your body language, it may be a fun idea to test it. Continue reading to learn how you can test your dog’s comprehension of body language

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice when your dog understands your body language:<br/>

  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Cowering
  • Wag Tail

Other Signs

You may also notice these signs when your dog understands you body language:

  • Moving To Or Selecting What You Are Signaling To
  • Laying Back The Ears When Sensing Negative Body Language
  • Perking The Ears When Sensing Positive Body Language
  • Tucking Of The Tail When Sensing Negative Body Language
  • Barking, Whining Or Snapping When Sensing Danger
  • Wagging Tail When Sensing Positive Body Language

History of Dogs Understanding Human Body Language


One theory on how dogs have learned to understand human body language—even better than human children—is that they developed this in the wild long before they were domesticated. Wolves depend on social cues to coordinate members to feed the pack, but when it comes to human body language, wolves are not nearly as capable at understanding human body language as dogs, so this theory was debunked.

What scientists also learned is that dogs don’t just learn to comprehend human body language. So, how do dogs understand human body language so well? The real answer is that even scientists don’t really know how dogs became so good at understanding social cues in humans. Even after years of research, it seems that canines just have a natural ability to understand body language in humans.

It is important for many scientists to understand this connection that pooches have with humans, because this trait is one that sets dogs apart from their ancestors, and after domesticating dogs, humans have long wondered how these animals have learned to adapt to live with people. Understanding this adaptation could also help humans better train dogs and other animals, as well. As of right now, however, it is still a mystery as to where canines gained this incredible ability.

Science Behind Dogs Understanding of Body Language


Scientists have spent decades trying to figure out how dogs read human cues. Humans learn these social cues from a young age—just like dogs learn how to understand dog-body-language at a young age. It is much more difficult, however, for humans and dogs to learn each other’s social cues and body languages.

Recent studies have shown that dogs are very good at reading specific types of body language in humans. To test this, scientists placed food under one of two containers, both of which are made to look and smell the same. This is done out of sight from the dog. The dog is then brought in and a human will give some sort of cue to where the food is using body language. The human could point, glance, or tilt their head toward the correct container. If the dog chooses the right container, it gets the food.

Unlike human children and apes, dogs could generally pick up on the cues immediately! Dogs were able to determine the location of the food four times better than apes and twice as much as the children, even when the experiment was conducted by strangers.

Training of Dogs Understanding Human Body Language


Remarkably, dogs don’t need to be trained how to understand human body language. For most dog owners, a dog being able to understand what their human is trying to show with body language is a benefit. Humans can even use this ability to their advantage.

Interestingly enough, this unique understanding of body language can help make for excellent guard dogs. Many dog owners who want a guard dog will take their dog through special training to protect their home and family, and dogs can sense when their humans are being threatened and provide protection!

In other instances, owners love being able to communicate with their dog in a special way. While pooches are able to speak to their humans in a way that we can understand, and vice-versa, body language is something that is easier for both parties to understand!

If you do want to train your dog to better understand your body language, however, there are some exercises you can try. First, you can start training your dog using body language. Not only will you then be teaching your dog basic commands, but you will also be reassuring their grasp on human body language. To do this, you will need come up with visual training cues. You can either use these cues alone or in conjunction with verbal commands.

You can also use the experiment that scientists used with the similar-smelling cups to test dogs’ understanding of human body language to teach your dog to read your body language better. Make different cues to signal to your dog that the food is in a certain container and see if your dog can learn to read your body language!

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Written by a Pomsky lover Chelsea Mies

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 01/23/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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