Tips for Understanding the Language of Pets

 Have you ever looked at your dog and wondered, “What are you thinking right now?” 

For pet parents everywhere, it can be a mystery trying to figure out what’s going on inside those adorable fluffy heads. Of course, unlike humans, cats, dogs, and other companion animals don’t speak with words. They cannot just open their mouths and tell us everything they are feeling. 

So, we must pay close attention! 

Read on for Groomit’s top two tips for understanding your pet’s language. Knowing how canines and felines communicate their emotions will make grooming more relaxed (and less stressful) for both you and your pet. 

Can anyone learn how to understand pets? 

First up, let’s take a moment to talk about our two most common grooming customers – dogs and cats. 

Here at Groomit, our highly skilled and certified pet groomers are pros at understanding the language of pets. Every year, we physically handle thousands of animals, all with different comfort levels, preferences, needs, etc. Yet, no matter what, our kitty and pup customers are left looking great and feeling even better. 

That’s why we want to share what we know! 

In fact, even taking as little as one minute to assess a cat or dog can drastically reduce the likelihood of getting scratched or bitten. 

The best part? Absolutely anyone can develop animal communication skills. All it takes is some practice, patience, open ears, and a keen eye. 

Learn to read body language 

Okay, now it’s time to review Groomit’s #1 tip: body language. 

Wikipedia defines body language as “a type of communication in which physical behaviors, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey the information.” 

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), there are three elements that make up a dog’s body language. These include: 

  • Posture 
  • Facial expressions 
  • Other body language 

Let’s begin with posture. How do you know whether the dog you are about to approach is friendly or aggressive? Well, naturally you will look for cues and hints as to what they are feeling. This can be determined by how the dog holds itself, also known as “posture.” 

For example, signs of a happy dog are: 

  • Long and slow tail wags 
  • Smooth fur that isn’t standing on end 
  • Mouth open 
  • Normal shaped eyes 

On the other hand, if a dog’s body language includes: 

  • Tail tucked between hind legs 
  • Head held low 
  • No eye contact or too much 
  • Ears back 
  • Teeth bared in a growl 

Then these signify the dog is afraid, stressed, and not totally comfortable with their current surrounding. Instead of being touched by you (or a groomer) they may need to be given space in order to calm down. 

Cats are similar. A relaxed cat will have ears facing forward, a high tail, and loose muscles. They might even “headbutt” for rubs or flop over for belly scratches! However, if your cat’s spine is arched, their hair bristled, eyes wide or belly flat against the ground, then all signs point to a very stressed-out animal. 

Listen to what sounds your pet is making 

When trying to understand a pet’s language, we must look as well as listen. The sounds a cat or dog makes will be telling. Are they loud? Unusually quiet? Does their demeanor change when certain grooming tools (or people) enter the room? Answering these questions will help you comprehend how your pet truly feels. 

Below are some key noises to listen for: 


  • Whining: Occurs when a dog wants something, like a treat. This can also be a sign of stress, so be careful to observe their surroundings 
  • Barking: This could be in response to excitement, overstimulation, frustration, or fear. Again, context matters. Is there a stranger approaching your house? Or are they barking to play with their favorite toy? Watch their habits and soon you will get to know your dog’s different types of barks. 


  • Hissing: Hissing is a universal sign of an unhappy cat. Almost always, it’s due to fear. 
  • Meowing: Cats meow for lots of different reasons. Fast and high-pitched meows can signal excitement – for instance, around dinner time! A long and slow meow is more likely to suggest they are annoyed. 
  • Purring: What’s a guaranteed way to know if your kitty is content? Listen for the rumbling sound of deep chest purrs! 

Remember, understanding a pet’s language takes practice 

Figuring out how to communicate with our pets take time. In a way, it’s sort of like learning a new language! Don’t use one sign by itself to determine a pet’s emotional state. Try to look and listen. This will help you get to know all the unique ways in which your four-legged friend “talks.” 

Interested in more paw-some pet content from Groomit? 

Be sure to check out 

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Groomit Team

GroomIt is the first mobile platform connecting pet owners and groomers. By connecting owners and groomers directly, Groomit offers top quality services at affordable prices, all performed in the convenience and comfortability of your home.

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