I’m fascinated with dog body language. The first time I became aware of how much I didn’t know about it was when I was interviewing Gwen Bailey. (http://www.dogbehaviour.com/) She was talking about the fact that when dogs turn their head away they can be indicating that they are stressed.
I felt such a fool, and told her about how I had interpreted this behaviour from Buddy as him pretending he couldn’t hear me. It happened many times when we got into the car, and I wanted Buddy to sit in the foot well, while he wanted to sit on the seat. I would tell him to get down, and would end up pulling firmly down on his lead, but he would strain his muscles, doing his best to stay on the seat, and turn his head away from me.
It intrigued me that he was trying to convey that I was stressing him, and I was seeing things completely differently, thinking he was being cheeky. How many other things did he do that offered a window into his mind that I was missing out on?
Since then, I’ve taken every opportunity to find out more about canine body language, and the more I learn, the more I want to learn. Of course the problem is, no dog is able to really tell us what they are thinking, so different people do tell you slightly different things.
I love watching our dogs interacting with each other and the other dogs we meet. It’s a great help to be able to watch a dog’s body language as he approaches us and make a fairly reliable guess as to whether he is likely to be friendly to my dogs or not. I also find it extremely interesting to watch how my dogs behave towards them, and try to identify signals they are giving off.
I recently cam across this body language quiz. It’s quite hard to work from illustrations without any movements, but it’s an interesting exercise. For more information about body language, try this this short guide from the ASPCA, and at the Dog Gone Crazy site there are photos and more information.
Just for the record, Buddy did finally learn to get into the foot well when told, although he does relish the occasions he is allowed to sit on the seat – wearing his safety harness of course. I probably do still stress him at times, but he is a very laid back dog and deals with it well. Better than most people I know anyway.