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What Your Dog is Trying to Tell You

Behavior and Training  •   AKC Pet Insurance  •   Jul 03, 2019

Ever wonder what your dog is trying to tell you when he whines or yelps? We may chat with our pups as we would with any other member of the family, but it’s important that when they’re talking back we understand what they’re trying to communicate. More than just his usual cries for attention or letting you know he needs to go outside - read on to learn what your dog is trying to tell you when he makes odd noises.


When your furry friend lets out a sharp yelp, he’s likely experienced some kind of physical pain. This happens most often when someone accidentally steps on a paw or you’re playing too rough. If your pup yelps when being petted, he may have gotten injured when playing outside or with other dogs. It’s important to look him over for any open wounds and keep an eye on him for signs of limping to determine whether or not he needs to see a veterinarian.

Another reason your dog might yelp is if he’s surprised or scared. This happens most often when there’s a sudden noise he dislikes, such as fireworks, thunder, loud cars, or the vacuum.


Your dog whines for a number of reasons. If the whining is joined by pawing at your leg or staring at you expectantly, your pup wants something. This is usually food, a treat, or a walk, but can also be other things. For example, if your furry friend often likes to sit next to you on the couch, he may whine if there’s something blocking his path, such as a book or laptop. The noises he makes is his way of asking you to move the item.

If your pup is upset, anxious or under duress, he may also whine to let you know he’s in need of comfort. Once you’ve learned what is causing your dog stress, you can then focus on alleviating his discomfort by avoiding these circumstances.

Your dog will also whine when he’s excited- when you’re offering him a treat or when you come home from work. You can tell the difference between this kind of whining and others as his tail will wag happily and he might suddenly get hyper.


While dog growling is often associated with being aggressive and dangerous, that’s not usually the case. Dogs will growl while they’re playing to demonstrate how much fun they’re having. However, if your dog’s tail is down and it isn’t a play session, your dog may growl to tell you that he doesn’t like what you’re doing. He may growl to ask you to stop because he feels threatened or your actions are hurting him.

Reverse Sneezing

For new dog owners, reverse sneezing can be extremely scary. The noise resembles deep, phlegm-filled inhaling and snorting that may lead you to believe that your dog is having trouble breathing. Reverse sneezing occurs when your dog’s soft palate is irritated, making it difficult for your pup to inhale. While the sound can be alarming, it’s often temporary and your dog can fix the issue on his own. Many factors can cause reverse sneezing such as pollen, eating too quickly, and strenuous exercise.

Rapid Barking

Short, rapid barking is a common sign of stress. Your dog may be trying to let you know that someone is at the door or that kids are playing on the street. Short rapid barks while you’re out running errands or at work can also be a sign that your pup is experiencing separation anxiety. He may need extra stimulation while you’re out of the house, such as a  safe food-fillable device or other toy.

Communication is Key

Understanding our pups when they’re trying to communicate with us is every dog owner’s dream come true. While we may not ever be able to get our dogs to speak to us in the traditional sense, that doesn’t mean we can’t have full-on conversations with our furry friends. Because, let’s face it, we talk to our pets more than we talk to most humans!

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