TTL 1: Canine Communication Part 4
Well, it's officially been a month since our last installment of Training The Leader. Much too long in my opinion! But alas, I have been swamped with the day-to-day activities and the time-sensitive projects that come with the territory of running your own business. The good news is that the new Website is going through it's (hopefully) final stages of editing and will be available soon! I've done a TONNE of supplemental material that will be featured on the site and I'm very excited to release it!
So without further ado, let's continue!
If you haven't read the previous parts, I would recommend that you do so.
Last time in Part 3, we went through the Nose, Mouth and Teeth. Today we will start at the Body.
Body Turn (or Head Turn): This is when the dog turns its body or head away from the stimulus. This is another calming signal sending a clear message that the thing the dog is turning away from is too much for it. Once you know what to look for, you'll see this everywhere.
I experienced this just today while introducing a new pack member to the pack. The new dog was very excited to sniff everyone that came into the van, and without fail, every dog that came in sniffed the new dog and then started turning their heads away sending a very clear message to the new kid to calm down!
Freezing - This is where the dog stops moving, it "freezes". This is yet another calming signal! I think of it as the dog thinking "if I don't move maybe the thing that's stressing me out will leave me alone". I see this lots with dogs that are a little more nervous to start with. There are definitely a few dogs in the Silver Jet pack that are a little nervous and will use freezing lots as a calming signal. (see video below for examples)
Slow Walk - Similar to freezing, this is where the dog moves very slowly, usually away from what's stressing it out. Sometimes occurs after freezing. (see video below for examples)
Paw Raise - This is not to be confused with pawing at something/someone, "shaking a paw", or pointing! A paw raise, often accompanied by a lean away from the stimulus/a whale eye/a head turn etc, means that the dog is uncertain about the situation.
Prancing/Stamping - This is when the dog stamps their two front feet down repetitively on the ground in excitement. Jaxsley does this quite often when he realizes that I'm getting geared up to take him out for a walk. I see it as a sign of happiness and excitement. Try as I might I haven't been able to get a good video of Jaxsley's prance!
Shaking - This is a HUGE calming signal. Shaking after a stressful encounter has a self-calming effect on the dog as well as signalling that it was stressed out. It's just like what Taylor Swift says, "Shake it off!" (for those who don't know what a shaking dog looks like, to fast-forward to 0:55)
Scratching - This is scratching when the dog doesn't need to scratch. I often see it when things are a little too intense for the dog, so it will stop and scratch. Duke will do this when I'm asking too much of him - I'm being too strict with his commands or what have you - instead of sitting (for example), he will turn and scratch. This tells me that I need to lighten up a little!
Showing Belly - The showing of the belly could mean "please scratch my belly because I love you" OR it could mean "I'm showing you my vulnerable belly and I'm actually really nervous about this situation can you please go away". To know the difference, it helps to know the dog and have a keen eye for accompanying communications. In the photo on the right, check out the dog's whale eye and it's tucked tail. Do you think this dog is asking for a belly rub or for space?
I have one dog in particular in my pack that will show her belly all the time. Sometimes it's because she wants a belly rub, but more often than not - especially when she does it around other dogs - it's a sign that she's pretty stressed out and is often accompanied by slow walking or freezing before or after she rolls over and lots of nose licks.
Hackles Raised - "Hackles" is how we describe the area along the top of the dog's spine from the shoulders to their butt. When we describe them as "raised" it means that the hair along that area is standing up. Please note that this can look slightly different on each dog. Raised hackles is a sign of arousal or excitement. A dog can be aroused by something positive or negative, so being able to read the situation, other body language signals, trusting your gut and knowing your dog will help determine what's going on.
Duke will often raise his hackles when meeting new dogs at the park regardless of whether he tries to play with them, hump them, or has to run away from them.
Stiff or Relaxed - I have said many times that knowing your dog really helps to identify different calming signals. When talking about the body, it's good to always have a gauge of whether it is Stiff or Relaxed. A Stiff body definitely means that there's something going on that the dog isn't comfortable with. Contrarily, a relaxed body means that your dog is relaxed.
When we talk about a dog's body as being stiff, a big part of that identification lies in the tail.
We are going to wrap up Part 4 here, and will dive into the tail next time!
Here's a video of a German Short-Haired Pointer, Lucy, being introduced into daycare. There are about a billion different calming signals in this 10min video. I will start you off with a few to check out, but I challenge you to see how many you can spot in Lucy, and in the other dogs at the daycare.
0:14 Lucy Sniffing
0:17 Lucy Freezing
0:19 Lucy Head Turn
2:47 Lucy Panting
4:56 Lucy Freezing
5:00 Lucy Slow Walk
7:18 Paw Lift
Until next time my friends!
Holly, Duke and Jax