As Riley and I have grown up together, we’ve learned a lot about each other. Riley is the only dog I’ve ever owned. Before I had a dog I knew that they were “a man’s best friend”, but as we grew up together, I learned just how much we can communicate with one another. Riley has a lot of ways to tell me what is on his mind and I talk to him human-style basically all the time. Let me clue you in on some of Riley’s expressions and tell me if your dog does anything like this.
My mom actually noticed it first. Rye would bring his favorite toy, Wolfie, over to her feet and stare at her. If she didn’t respond within 10 seconds, Riley would sneeze. She thought it was post-nasal drip caused by him looking up at her, but we started to put it together. Riley sneezes for attention. How goofy is that!? Now that I know he does it, I notice it all the time. He sneezes at me when he needs to go potty outside, when he wants me to play, when he wants your food, and any other time he wants you to acknowledge him. Paul says that Riley sneezes at him when he wants Paul to stop playing with him. He will sneeze and then run away. It’s really adorable and one of these days I am going to try to put together a compilation of Rye Sneezes and show you guys. His real sneezes are much more dramatic and involve a lot more head motion and eye squinting. There is definitely a big difference.
Then there is the “huff”. Often times I try to mess with my pup by almost giving him a treat or hiding Wolfie under a bunch of blankets. For me, I am mentally challenging him to figure out his problems but this often invokes what I like to call a huff from Rye. It is a grunt of exasperation and it sounds exactly like “huff”, or “Okay, Mom, I’m done!”. Sometimes if I push it even more, say I put a treat on the floor and then pick up Rye, he will make a calm growling sound which means “you’re annoying me”. It will get louder if I persist, but really there is nothing else he can do! He also huffs when I tell him to stop doing something, like barking. He will stop barking and huff. He will repeatedly huff depending on how much he is restraining the bark. He is saying “Mom, I’m trying really hard not to bark but it’s so hard!”.
After a long day of fun activities, Rye will often jump up on the couch and flop onto his side. He then makes the sweetest little tired “deep breathe in and let it out”. I try to let him sleep but sometimes it is so cute that I have to hug him, which then incites a huff from him.
Those are all of the sounds I can think of that he says. Now onto the physical ques. Rye Guy will give me signs to tell me I guess correctly what he wants me to do. It’s so cool because he really does understand a lot of what I say. Most of the time it starts off with a sneeze or a huff to get my attention. Then I will say “What Rye? Do you have to go outside?”. He will puppy bow, spin in a quick circle, and then sneeze again. That means “Yes, Mom, Now!”. If we get him really excited by asking him if he wants to go on a walk and my face is close to him, he will puppy bow and then jump and swat me in the face. The first time he did that it caught me by surprise, but it’s so stinking cute! He gets so excited!
Now, one thing you must know about Riley is that he loves to lick. I mean really really loves to lick. Anyone, anywhere, and sometimes anything. If I am sitting on the couch, he will just sit next to me and lick my leg…for 20 minutes. I think that sometimes he goes overboard and will start licking me and then he will move on to licking the couch. What a goof. He licks Wolfie, and his bed, and any human he can. He especially loves licking faces.
The cute part about him licking is that if I am holding him in my arms and I ask him if he wants to go on a walk, he will enthusiastically lick my face once and then struggle to get out of my arms to get near the door for his walk. The lick means “Yes please!”.
The last que I can think of is Riley’s eye contact. He can stare someone to death. Normally, when he wants attention, it will start out with unwavering eye contact. If no one catches his eye, it will turn into a sneeze or a huff. But if you do realize that he is staring you down, you know he wants something. For example, every morning Paul and I take Riley outside for his morning walk/bathroom. Then when we come inside, we give Rye his Oravet treat. However, if Paul and I are talking and not walking towards the treat stash right away, he will serve you with the most attentive stare you ever saw. Riley’s brain, “MOM! MY TREAT! I DESERVE IT!”.
Now for the finale, the Riley combos. At any given moment of excitement or frustration, Riley will produce combos of any one of his expressions. It can be quite the sight to see. For example, I will be holding Riley and ask him if he wants to go in the car. He loves the car. He will quickly and firmly lick my face then squirm out of my arms, puppy bow, spin in a circle, slap the ground, and sneeze. All while wagging his whole bottom. He gets creative with mixing it up.
After living with Rye for 8 years, I really get to know his communication and his little attitude. Dogs are so cool in that they can tell us so much and understand so much too. I love having a dog who is so smart and expressive! He adds spice to my life.
What I want to know now, is if your dog does any of the same things Riley does. Do they communicate in other ways? How does your dog let you know what he or she is thinking?