Writing Like a Dog

While you may think it’s a piece of pie to put yourself in your characters’ paws, you may not realize that dogs experience the world through different senses than we do. Learning how your dog character perceives and reacts with the world as well as their behavior and body language are really great things to add to your posts because it gives more for your thread partner(s) to react to!

This informational guide is simply here for you if you'd like to improve your writing! If you want to use pieces of it, great; if you want to use all of it, even better! If you have any questions about using information from here (or somewhere else), please ask a question on the Help Board!


Scent

Canines can pick up on a wide range of information by scent, including:

  • whether food is spoiled or poisoned
  • where certain items are buried
  • what another has last eaten
  • where another has been
  • what another has touched
  • whether they have recently given birth (or had a miscarriage)
  • whether another is sick
  • whether another is ready to mate
  • how old another is (age)
  • what gender another is
  • mood (to an extent, explained below)
  • what group/gang they belong to
  • which family they are from / recognize family members
  • what level of rank they carry

A dog’s nose can decipher whether another belongs to a group or not -- group scents tend to linger upon a dog’s coat for some time, only fading when they spend long amounts of time away from their group. Group scents may cling to others that spend a lot of time near said group - such individuals include loners, cats, and other gang members.

The same goes for a family group as well - family members will carry similar scent. A mother will smell similar to her pups, siblings will smell similar, and a general family scent may be deciphered between family members. Unlike the group scent, the family group scent would not fade despite being away from their family for long periods of time.

Rank is also decipherable through scent, though with restriction. A dog will not be able to decipher exact rank, but they will be able to tell whether a dog is positioned highly or lowly in their gang hierarchy.


Sight

Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not color blind. Instead, they see in a limited spectrum of hues of blues, grays, and yellows. This means that other colors like purple and blues are both seen as shades of blue; greenish-blue and red are seen in shades of gray or black; and orange, yellow, and green are all seen in varying shades of yellow. To a dog, a bright orange object is the same yellowish shade as the bright green grass. It’s a limited spectrum, but it’s not completely black and white.

Dogs can see the best in low-light situations, such as dusk and dawn. Their night-vision is much better than a human’s, but their overall eyesight is not much better. Instead, dogs are much better at detecting movement in close or far range distances.


Hearing

Dogs can hear about a quarter of a mile away, though the shifting and movement of their ears allows them to tune into the sound a lot better! Dogs with perked ears can usually hear better than a dog with hanging or folded ears.


Energy

Perhaps this one should be considered a canine superpower. Dogs as well as other animals can sense energy - kinetic energy - that often gives away emotions or intentions or sudden ailments (like seizures). Dogs can sense emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger, and pity by the shift in pheremones and energy radiating from another being. Dogs often interpret these emotions as weaknesses.


Dog Emotions (And How They Are Expressed)


Intrigue
  • erect ears
  • wide eyes
  • rigid body, possibly "pointing" (front paw raised, leaning forward, "pointing" with their nose)
  • tail straight and stiff
  • head positioned high


Happiness / Excitability
  • tail and / or body wagging
  • licking at other's face / mouth
  • pawing at other's body
  • barking (medium-pitched)


Playfulness
  • front half of body is low to the ground, rear is raised
  • tail high and wagging
  • front paws stomping the ground
  • playful growling (high-pitched)
  • nipping at other's face / neck
  • body (usually rear) bumping into others
  • pawing at others
  • barking (high-pitched)


Anxiety
  • whining
  • frequent yawning
  • frequently licking lips
  • pacing
  • howling


Anger
  • ears pinned to head
  • head raised
  • eyes wide, staring
  • lips curled, showing teeth, growling (low-pitched)
  • rigid body
  • tail high (if of a superior rank) or straight and stiff
  • hackles raised from neck to tail tip
  • barking


Fear / Submission
  • tucked tail
  • ears pinned to head
  • body and head low to the ground, potentially crawling
  • frequently licking lips (or another's face)
  • going belly-up (feet held close to body), whining, snarling


1. UNDERSTANDING A DOG'S SENSES
2. 5 Ways Your Dog Senses The World Differently From You
3. SoulsRPG: How to Write Like a Wolf
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