Yes, Your Dog Is Trying to Tell You Something and Scientists Have Finally Translated What Their Gestures Mean

How many times have you looked into your dog’s eyes and thought, “If only you could talk”? Well, it turns out the canines have been speaking to us all along, and not just through barking or whining.

A new study published in the science journal Animal Cognition on April 30 reports that researchers from the University of Salford in Manchester, U.K., have been working on the translation of dog gestures and behaviors for a while now — and they finally have some interesting and educational (and adorable!) findings to share.

The journal states that the Salford researchers “observed 37 pet dogs in their own homes … owners recorded 242 videos” containing evidence of a number of “referential gestures performed by domestic dogs during everyday communicative bouts with humans,” which conform to signals indicative of cross-species communication.

The animal scientists were able to identify at least 47 different potential gestures (roll over, hind leg stand, paw up, etc.) that they believe canines use when trying to communicate with humans. Amazingly, they’ve also discovered the meanings behind or “translated” 19 of these specific behaviors.

According to the study, most of the gestures mean “pet me” (or “scratch me”) as opposed to “feed me”, but obviously food-related motions are high on the list too. Other popular gestures mean your pup wants to go outside or play.

And now, a quickie run down (or dictionary, if you will) of dog gestures and their translated meanings, courtesy of

“I want to be pet”

Rolling over in front of you
Pressing its nose against you or another object
Licking you or an object
Lifting a paw and placing it on you
Gently biting your arm
Short shuffles along the ground while rolling over
Lifting a back leg while laying on its side
Rubbing its head against you while leaning against you


“I want to be fed”

Using its snout and head to move your hand on to its body
Holding one paw in the air while sitting
Turning its head from side-to-side, looking between a human and another object
Standing on its hind legs
Using its mouth to throw a toy forwards

“I want you to play with me”

Briefly touching a person with a single paw
Diving headfirst under a person or object
Reaching a paw towards an object of interest
Wiggling its body underneath a person or object


“I want you to open the door for me”

 Lifting both paws off the ground and placing them on its owner or a nearby object
Jumping up and down, either on to an object or not, while in the same location

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Now, print this article and put it up on your fridge or save it in your phone like a translation app. You’re welcome!


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