Sometimes a dog needs to ask for help. They might be in pain, need water in their water bowl, feel lonely, or simply want some love and attention because they can never have too much of that. Dogs may not be able to speak human words, but they still communicate with us through their actions and sounds.
My dog asks me for things all the time. I know exactly when he wants me to stop working (I get the ‘stop working and feed me’ stare and grumble every day at 17:00 like clockwork), when he wants to go for a swim, and when he wants to be left alone to sleep.
Here are 14 ways your dog might ask you to help them and what they’re probably asking for:
1. Your dog lays its head in your lap
If your dog walks up to you and lays their head in your lap, either their chin or one side of their head, they are probably looking for an ear rub or attention. This is how a dog asks for some time and love, and lets you know how much they love you, too.
This is a very close and loving position, which shows how much your dog trusts you and that they want to be close to you.
2. Your dog pulls on your hand or sleeve
Some dogs will come over and gently pull on your hand or sleeve to get you to go somewhere with them. This is your dog saying, ‘Come and take a look!’ or ‘Follow me so I can show you!’
Another version of the Come-and-take-a-look move involves nudging you with their nose and then running away a few steps before stopping to look at you.
If you get up and follow them, they may stop along the way to look back and make sure you’re still behind them and give a few tail wags. You’ll soon find out what interesting thing they want to show you or what they want to ask for.
3. Your dog sits and stares at you
If your dog sits on their back legs and stares at you, they are probably waiting to get your attention to ask for something. If you ignore them, they may grumble at you to make it very clear they’re staring at you – just in case you hadn’t noticed.
If you ask them what they want, they will probably wag their tail and try to show you what they need.
If they’re staring somewhere else, like under the bed or couch, you may need to get on your knees and rescue the ball that’s lost in the darkness under there.
4. Your dog gives you their paw
A dog giving you their paw on their own is often a request for a pat or the tasty treat you have in your hand. It’s a canine form of begging and asking nicely.
Some dogs tilt their head to the side while begging with their paw, probably to sweet talk you and show you they are saying ‘pretty please’.
5. Your dog throws toys in front of you
If your dog picks up their toys in their mouth and throws these in front of you or around the room, they probably want to play a little game or eat something yummy. This is a playful, fun gesture and you will get lots of kisses and tail wags if you respond to it.
6. Your dog stands on their back legs to dance
It’s time for doggy tango!
If your dog stands up to dance or hop around on their hind legs, or they put their front paws up on your legs, they’re asking to be picked up or they want help to see something that’s too high for them to see at ground level.
Being a dog means being close to the ground, but there’s often something interesting and fun to see higher up in your arms!
7. Your dog bows down
If your dog bows by keeping their back legs straight and arching down to the floor with the front of their body, they’re probably asking for a game with you. The tail will often wag during this royal bow wow.
Do they love to tug on toys or run after balls? Then this is the time they want to do it (even if you had other plans).
8. Your dog hides behind your legs or under your chair
If you take your dog to the park or people come over and your dog runs to hide under your legs or behind your chair, your dog is asking you to protect them. They are feeling unsure and need a safe place to sit or lie down until they’ve assessed the situation.
It’s usually best to let them stay there, where they feel safe, until they realize that there’s nothing to fear and can come out and be brave again.
9. Your dog paces up and down
If your dog starts pacing up and down the room, they are probably feeling worried and uneasy. People do it too. You might know what’s upsetting your dog: Are they waiting for someone to come home? Do they hear another dog outside?
If you know what all the excitement is about, then the pacing is nothing to worry about unless they become destructive. Some training and calming dog aids can sort this out if it’s a problem.
But if your dog suddenly starts pacing or does this for a long time, especially if their head is hanging and they are panting, they may be sick or experiencing a lot of anxiety and need your help with a trip to the vet.
10. Your dog starts licking an area excessively
When a dog gets a cut or a wound, its natural instinct is to lick the wound better. Their tongue is part of their first aid kit in the wild.
If your dog starts biting or licking an area excessively, there might be a problem. Look to see if you can see a cut or blood in that area. If the area is red, swollen, or bleeding, it’s best to take your dog to the vet for help.
Some dogs nibble on their legs or feet out of habit. If the vet has checked and nothing is wrong, then there isn’t much you can do except tell them to stop when you see them nibbling away.
11. Your dog whines and cries
We’ve all heard a lonely dog howling for its owner. If a dog is left home alone all day, there’s a good chance they’ll cry because they’re very unhappy about it. Dogs are pack animals and need company.
Some dogs are more vocal than others. If you have a vocal dog that talks to you, you’ll notice they have different woofs, grunts and yaps for different needs.
If you’re being beckoned by the dog but you aren’t sure what they want, look at their body language or ask them to take you to what they need. They may want to be let out, fed, to play with a certain toy, or simply want attention.
A yap and a tail wag are usually a friendly way to ask for a game.
12. Your dog rolls on his back and shows you their belly
There are no six packs in this story but there are some fluffy tummies to tickle.
If a dog loves and trusts you, they may roll over and let you scratch their belly. The chest and stomach are very vulnerable areas of any animal, where the heart and vital organs sit, so the big belly show and rub request lets you know, ‘Hey, you’re cool. We friends. I’ll roll over and let you rub me’.
13. Your dog chews on things or becomes destructive
If your dog is feeling anxious, they may chew or nibble on something as a way to release the stress they’re feeling. They may also try to climb onto your lap for some protection or to be calmed down.
If you know they do this, be sure to buy high-quality dog chews for your dog to safely chew on. If you are okay with your dog on your lap, then calm them down by cuddling them, giving them long, slow strokes, and speaking to them in a soothing voice.
If your dog is or suddenly becomes destructive and they’re past that icky puppy teething phase, they may be letting you know they’re bored, frustrated, or suffering from separation anxiety.
Destroying things is often a cry for help. Does your dog get enough exercise and attention? Do they have enough toys to keep them busy while you’re out?
14. Your dog becomes aggressive
If you dog is in pain somewhere on their body or internally, they may become more aggressive to protect themselves (and because they are grumpier than usual).
If your dog growls or snaps when you touch them somewhere, look to see if you can see any injury. If you can’t, it’s best to take them to the vet for a checkup.