This Morning vet Dr Scott Miller reveals common canine behaviours owners misinterpret in new book

While many dog owners would like to believe they know their pooch inside out, it could be possible that some of their subtle signals may not mean exactly what you think they do. 

In his new book Puppy Parenting, Dr Scott Miller has debunked popular myths about what your dog’s behaviour actually means – from wagging their tails to smacking their lips. 

Australian vet Dr Miller is a regular on ITV’s This Morning and his upcoming book provides audiences with a clear chronological format about what to expect at each stage of your pet’s development. 

The vet also outlined the various behaviours that owners exhibit that dogs do not understand, including greeting dogs for the first time by patting them on the head – which could be intimidating for pooches. 

Although most of us love nothing more than giving our beloved pooch a massive hug at the end of the day, Dr Scott warned that embracing them too hard could actually make your pet feel restrained or dominated. 

Here, FEMAIL reveals some of the useful pieces of advice given by Dr Scott in his book.  

Australian vet Dr Scott Miller is a regular on ITV’s This Morning and has released a book providing a clear chronological format about what to expect at each stage of a puppy’s development

Things you don’t understand about your dog 

Tail wagging 

Many of us immediately associate a wagging tail with a happy or excited dog – however this isn’t always the case. 

While it can be a sign of happiness, a dog wagging their tail can be a sign of feeling over-stimulated, frustrated, confident or simply assessing the situation in front of them. 

Laying out what different types of wagging tails mean, Dr Scott revealed that when a dog’s tail is held up high it’s usually because it’s feeling confident or aroused and wants to expose their scent glands. 

In his new book Puppy Parenting, Dr Scott Miller has debunked popular myths about what your dog's behaviour actually means - from wagging their tails to smacking their lips

In his new book Puppy Parenting, Dr Scott Miller has debunked popular myths about what your dog’s behaviour actually means – from wagging their tails to smacking their lips

If the tail is wagging from side to side but the dog seems tense and has little other movement in their body, its usually because they’re feeling over-stimulated and should be left alone. 

A slow side to side wag indicates that the dog is feeling calm but is assessing their next move, while a ‘helicopter 360 degree’ wag with a wiggling bum is a ‘surefire sign of friendliness’.   

Teeth chattering 

Although humans tend to chatter their teeth when they’re feeling cold, it usually means something totally different in canines.  

One likely reason for teeth chattering is your pet is suffering with dental problems like tooth decay, an abscessed tooth or periodontitis. 

However it could also be a sign of anxiety or nervousness in your pet, with teeth chattering becoming a ‘displacement gesture’ to calm them down by taking their mind off their perceived threat.  

Similarly, compulsive behaviours like excessive sneezing or nose licking shouldn’t be ignored, with Dr Scott suggesting an animal behavioural specialist may be required to get to the bottom of the issue. 

Licking their lips 

While this could be a sign of anticipation for a tasty meal, dogs licking their lips could also be an indicator that they’re feeling sick or afraid.   

Similarly to humans, dogs produce more saliva when they’re feeling nauseous and so many start smacking their lips if they’re feeling sick before vomiting. 

It can also be a sign of nervousness, with dogs using lip licking as a sign of appeasement to avoid injury. 

Licking lips shows fellow canines or humans that while they may be uncomfortable with the situation, they are submissive and won’t try and inflict any harm. 

What kind of puppy should YOU get based on your lifestyle?  

Dr Scott reveals the things to consider when choosing which breed of dog to get: 

Your environment: The dog you pick should be based on how much space you can provide it. For example a one-bedroom flat may be more suited to a Maltese Terrier while sprawling lands would be a good home for an Irish Wolfhound. 

Your energy level: Even if you have acres of land to spare, consider how much energy you actually have to look after the dog. An energetic breed like a Border Collie should only be chosen if you want to spend lots of time in the garden

Your cash flow: While all dogs are expensive, bigger breeds will be more expensive to look after when it comes to food bills 

Your time: If you have less time, opt for a more low maintenance breed that requires less grooming or walking and can be left alone for longer periods of time  

Exposing their tummy 

While it can be a sign that your pooch is desperate for a belly rub, a dog lying on their back and exposing their stomach doesn’t always mean they want to be touched.  

Like sticking out their tongue, lying on their back can be a signal they’re feeling nervous or threatened and want to demonstrate they are submissive to avoid injury. 

However, according to Dr Scott, this means that touching their stomach can result in an aggressive response from the dog 

But when paired with a waggling tail, tongue and relaxed body – Dr Scott says this is exactly what owners expect, a request to have their belly rubbed. 

Things your dog doesn’t understand about you


Just like staring at people for an extended period of time without explanation might freak someone out, dogs become confused and uncomfortable when humans gawp at them for too long. 

Dogs might see you staring at them for a prolonged amount of time as a challenge which could cause anxiety or fear of their owner. 

However excessive staring could also lead some dogs to become aggressive and snap at their owner if they perceive them as being aggressive. 

Punishing past behaviours 

While it may be tempting to punish dogs for ruining the carpet or smashing a beloved vase, telling a dog off for something that happened in the past will only confuse them. 

Dr Scott explained that canines have no concept of reflecting on what they’ve done in the past and will think their owner is angry at them for their current behaviour. 

This means that, for example, if an owner reprimands their dog for chewing something up while he’s lying in the garden, the dog will assume the owner is angry at them for lying in the garden. 

The vet said that losing your temper with your dog will never help and that raising your voice at a pooch can actually make them less perceptive to what you are telling them. 

Alone time 

Dogs are pack creatures and don’t understand that humans occasionally enjoy spending time on their own.  

Canines thrive on social contact and so assume that people feel the same way – with long periods of isolation potentially leading to behavioral issues like soiling or vocalising their distress though whining or barking. 

Because even short periods of time alone can be tough for your pet. Dr Scott advises spending some time alone when owner and dog are in the house together to help them get used to their own company. 


Because dogs don’t show affection with all-encompassing bear hugs, totally embracing a dog can lead to them feeling restrained or as if the person is trying to dominate them. 

Dr Scott pointed out that while some dogs have become comfortable hugging their owners, strangers should never greet a dog this way for the first time. 

He also says that excessive coddling and physical comfort if your dog is nervous or stressed can actually worsen their anxiety or behavioural issues. 

This is because in a wild dog pack a sense of nervousness would be ignored by the leader, with the anxious dog left to follow the example of the calm and confident head of the pack.