Flickering ears, raised tails, sniffing the air intently, these are just a few of the signs that our canine pals incorporate into the world of Body Language. There’s many more signs. Space is limited here, but for those who read my first Blog in this forum, I touched on the fact that it would be so very helpful if only our dogs could speak English! Fortunately, learning a little about the three mediums that form the nucleus of Body Language, can often go a long ways to resolving certain canine puzzles due to their lack of English. The three mediums of Body Language are Posture, Gesture and Sound. Of these three, I personally believe the first two are more likely to keep us on point consistently, in actually understanding what dogs are expressing. After all, if ever you’ve heard and actually UNDERSTOOD the plaintiff (screeching) wails of the Japanese Shiba Inu, at full volume, you’re way further along then I’ll ever be LOL. It’s the equivalent of fingernails scratching down a Blackboard or a quartet of 6 year olds learning to play Violin. I spent a fair bit of time working with a fairly vocal female Shiba named Dakota a few years ago, Maybe the fact that she had some miniature Husky in her blood and i never heard the anove mentioned Shiba wail i dont know. Most of her vocal offerings were rapid staccato-like barks when she wanted to stir the pot and get other dogs going at the offleash park so they would play with her. Multiple barks that also let others know if they were playing as a Twosome, she’d chase them while barking “I’m still here boys and girls, lets Play as a Trio! Can You See Me, Don’t Ignore me!” Bark!Bark! Bark! …Up Close and Personal and right in their faces. A four legged Tomboy she was. LOL
So, putting Sound a little more on the Back Burner, unless it’s a warning bark that a stranger is at your door, or there’s a potential fire that could wipe out everything in sight, Ive found that Posture and Gesture are more consistent for us two legged creatures to understand what they’re actually expressing, so weird noises coming from some of our dogs can likely assume a little less importance for the most part. Unless of course ‘ Stanley’ always makes that sound when his favorite ball rolls well under your couch. Then for sure you’ll know what he’s saying. LOL
Posture- a healthy ,happy, confident dog will always have two barometers that verify their happiness qualities in overall Posture. Keep in mind that a dog who is feeling really good,will always show us those good feelings via the Ears and the Tail to be exact. When the ears are pricked and forward, while flickering occasionally, that’s a dog that’s alert and with it. When those ears remain pricked for several seconds, they’re likely detecting a stimulus in whichever direction those ears are pointing to. Often times it can be something in the distance that we humans may not hear or see. Imperceptible. But it also tells you how sharp their focus is in that moment. And then out from the distant underbrush pops that little grey squirrel your dog saw way before you did. While walking your dog on a leash, it’s never a bad thing to keep an eye on the ears and tail to see how they’re doing. Particularly if you’re in more extreme weather situations, Hot or Cold. If our pooches have had enough, or for example they’re on a certain medication, you can expect to see a change via the ears. A strong medication or sedative can produce a static situation, ears can be a little more in a helicopter position,with little or no forward movement. Dopey. My pug Luci had floppy ears, typical of her breed. However, I often saw her cock one single ear straight up when she was really focusing. Like a periscope on a chunky little submarine. LOL.Put a smile on many faces,including myself when she did that,and I saw it hundreds of times. However,it also let me know she was feeling just fine and certainly was very alert. With floppy eared breeds, where its perhaps a little harder to tell how theyre doing, or if it’s a floppy eared dog you dont know well, or perhaps are looking after for the first time, simply call out their first name if out for a walk. If they turn to look at you immediately, they’re feeling sharp enough and alert enough which leads us to
The Tail- this is a component that often tells a story, and at the very least ,it’s a perfect compliment to the ears. Simply put, when dogs are feeling good, the tail is always slightly raised and off their butt area. And simultaneously, when the ears are up, it’s the perfect compliment of the two qualities showing us a happy, healthy and calm dog. Conversely, a dog who is intimidated by other dogs in a group, at the offleash for example, is certainly not feeling like a calm, confident and happy dog. He or she, will not be displaying a raised tail during those moments.The more submissive or intimidated they’re feeling, the more that tail is lowering between their hind legs. It will only start to raise when the dog starts feeling safe, or at least accepted by the others and there’s no negative incidents forthcoming. If the tail is lowered, it may be due to one particular dog causing the submission when your dog is within close range of the other, even if its a group situation with plenty of other dogs around. Often they can work it out between them if it’s due to a past incident and it becomes a one off. However,sometimes there are certain dogs that just dont like each other so pay close attention. The bottom line is,that when confidence rises, so will their tails.
Next time we’ ll touch on the third component of Body language – Gesture and also revisit a little more on Sound. Enjoy your Pooches!