Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Signature Dog Blog: Signature Pet Services: Understanding your Dog's Body Language

Did you know that you can become an expert in reading (and perhaps understanding) your dog’s body language?

Why is this helpful, you ask? 

Well, when you are able to detect an early sign or signs of your dog's apprehension or uneasiness you can then quickly and quietly offer your assistance to help your dog cope by giving him more space, blocking his energy or another dog's energy, asking people not to approach (just say "We are in training" you can be nice about it and say hello as well) or just keep moving, if you are on a walk. 

If you are reading your dog and he is showing uneasiness, for example, remember, don't chatter at him, don't raise your voice, talk firmly (if you have to) but never ever say to your dog, "It's OK Spot". This may not be obvious to you - but by saying this you are telling Spot it is "OK" to be uneasy, frightened or aggressive. 

Here are some of the more obvious signs to watch for in a dog in an uncomfortable situation: a closed mouth, smacking and/or lip licking, whites of the eyes are showing and skin around eyes is deep red, yawning, and fixating. 

And finally, a wagging tail does not always mean a happy dog! Different wags at different speeds and different positions all mean different things. Some times a wagging tail means "Hi, I would love to meet you" and sometimes a wagging tail means "Hi, I would love to eat you". 

Learn to know the difference - it could save your dog's life or at least prevent costly injuries.

A truly well socialized, friendly and confident dog - the kind you like to meet should actually be doing a full body wag or wiggle along with their tail movement.  When my happy Doberman Pinscher, Madeline, does this - I refer to this as the wiggle dance.  

Two years ago at the local dog park (Dogwood Park in South Surrey) while I was returning to my vehicle with my dog (Madeline, the 53 lb and very petite Doberman) I was attacked by a very large male Rottweiler (perhaps 130 lb).  The dog was very aggressive towards me and my dog all the while wagging its tail.  Its owner (ignorant to its body language) claimed everything was fine because her dog while growling, spitting and lunging at me was friendly because his tail was wagging.   This all just before it launched onto my knee. 

In the aftermath, the dog's owner claimed it was all because her dog the Rottweiler did not like Dobermans.  She said this as she took off into the dog park with her off-leash dog where there were several Dobermans playing amongst themselves.  

I have never returned to Dogwood Park and intend never to do so again.  I feel that if I had not known what was going on with that dog and blocked it with my body - he surely would have seriously maimed my dog or perhaps even killed her. 

A reminder to everyone that an off-leash dog park is never a place for intact male dogs, or aggressive dogs of any breed, size or shape. 

Enjoy the summer!

Lee, Madeline and Roman

Signature Pet Services is a by-appointment-only pet sitting company serving South Surrey and White Rock, British Columbia. We specialize in loving and safe home-style dog boarding in our own home. Signature Pet Services also provides dog, puppy and cat sitting services. I invite you to check out our website (link above) or if you live locally give us a call at 604-818-7841.