Dogs and Tactile Communication

by Simon Foden Google
    Dogs have many ways of saying "hi" to their friends.

    Dogs have many ways of saying "hi" to their friends.

    Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    For animals that doesn’t speak, dogs are remarkably effective communicators. They use their barks, growls, whines, body language even touch to communicate. Dogs use touch to communicate with other dogs and with their people, too. While dogs are better at understanding what another dog’s tactile communication means, humans can guess. Often, tactile communication means different things depending on circumstances, so always take account of context when trying to read your dog.


    It’s hard to ignore being pawed, and your dog has figured this out. Pawing can be an invitation to play, a plea for attention and sometimes as an attempt to assert dominance. Observe your dog’s accompanying body language to figure out what he means when he’s pawing at you or another dog. A wagging tail and bowing posture most likely mean play is the goal; whining and general restlessness mean he’s pawing for attention, If he’s attempting to push you or another dog around using his paws, he might be trying to assert his dominance.


    Licking is a classic canine greeting and mark of affection, but dogs also lick to show submissiveness. A dog will lick another dog's face to say, “I’m friendly and pose no threat.” Dogs also lick one another to clean and groom.


    If you’ve ever held a puppy and thought he was trying to bite you, you may have been the recipient of some affectionate mouthing. Puppies explore with their mouths as much as they do with eyes and ears. Mouthing between young puppies is a form of play. If a puppy goes too hard with his mouth and hurts one of his siblings or his mother, the other dog will typically squeal. This known as a bite inhibition. It’s how dogs learn their limits and the tolerance levels of other dogs. Biting is also a form of tactile communication. It is a way for dogs to show fear, to discipline other dogs that play too rough or to react to aggression.

    Touching Noses

    Dogs have very powerful senses of smell; their noses are important parts of their communication arsenals. Touching noses is a greeting, a method of socialization and , as research in The University of Zurich Institute of Zoology revealed, a means for dogs to find out whether the dog they’re encountering has eaten recently. The study found that dogs would touch noses in order to gauge the likelihood of their being food in the area.


    Dogs occasionally use their body weight and heft to assert dominance, for example by moving another dog out of the way to get access to food first. But that’s not the only thing a dog can say when he places his body next to your body or the body of another dog. Often dogs do this for reassurance and security if they feel threatened or anxious -- or if they sense that you feel that way.

    Photo Credits

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    About the Author

    Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for

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