Canine Body Language Seminar

Mia greeting me with her back for safety.

Thank you to everyone who attended our Canine Body Language Seminar held at Poetic Gold Farm in Falmouth this past Sunday!  I believe, from all the positive feedback I have received, we accomplished our goal of helping everyone see that our dogs really do speak with their body movements.  When we take time to observe our dogs stance, their weight distribution, what their ears, eyes, tail, mouth, brows and tongue,  are doing as well as their over all body firmness, we can learn a great deal about our dogs emotional state.  With just a bit of practice we can understand what our dog is feeling given the situation they are in and how to help them if they are fearful or stressed.  As you can see in the above photo, Mia was not comfortable greeting me for the first time facing me, instead, each time turned and gave me her back, with ears down and back, tongue flicking up and out.  She clearly has a bit of hesitation when greeting someone new, but she did quickly warm up and roll on the ground in a relaxed goofy manner.

We certainly all agreed that when it comes to a dog greeting a strange person or new dog, the dog always has an opinion.  Rather than asking “can our dogs meet”, we should all be asking “do our dog’s want to meet” the strange dog or person.

Pablo is fearful of people and has begun to ground sniff.

Knowing how your dog is feeling in different situations will help you set him up for success.  Note in this photo, Pablo is sniffing the ground, he is uncomfortable with all the humans looking at him and has resorted to ground sniffing as it is comforting to him.  Knowing he was stressed I had my daughter play a game of “find it”,  he happily ate the treats and kept a safe distance from the observers.

Bella is avoiding Pablo by sniffing in the grass.

As you can see from this photo taken a few weeks earlier, these two dogs having just met are not comfortable entering each other’s space and therefore are demonstrating some avoidance.  Note Bella sniffing the grass and Pablo has a high tail and fairly stiff gate. This is the dogs way of keeping themselves safe, as neither dog invited the other dog into a friendly greeting, rather are clearly ignoring each other.

Bella greeting Buddy in a soft manner.

Here, you can clearly see how floppy Bella’s body is in greeting Buddy.  Buddy began inviting her into his space by getting low and play bowing numerous times just after walking together for about 20 minutes. Their body’s became soft, tails flat, joints soft with lots of movement, eyes were soft with no direct staring.   These two dogs played very well in a 50-50 manner having just met 30 minutes ago.

In summary, keep in mind that your dog will have an opinion about what he wants or needs to feel safe when faced with a new person, dog or environment.  Take it slow,  and practice understanding your dog when he is happy and relaxed and also when he is stressed or anxious.  Knowing how your dog is feeling will help you understand how to help him through situations when he needs you most!