WHOA! Where’d that sign post come from? Fear in dogs needs tending to but if you don’t know how to read dogs you won’t know if they are afraid, cautious, excited or what, so you won’t know how to best tend to them.
Although we walked this same trail yesterday, today this sign post became a monster. SADIE, my new charge in training to be a Service Dog is a 10 month old Golden Retriever who came from a very loving home yet didn’t get out to see the world much.
Her guardian became ill shortly after getting this bundle of joy at 8 weeks of age and after 8 months of illness realized that as wonderful as SADIE was, she needed more of a life than she was able to offer her. SADIES guardian became too ill to care for her and give her what she needed. I was looking for a dog with the right temperament and low and behold SADIE shows up on my Facebook page. I was one lucky woman that day and I feel very blessed.
The lack of exposure in her life for her first 10 months had SADIE be very cautious of everything around her. Noises, like the coffee grinder made her jump, new people had her very tentative and the same went with new dogs. Some people would have said she was fearful but it wasn’t fear at all. SADIE wasn’t afraid of the noises, people and dogs, she was tentative or very cautious. There is a tremendous difference in the two and why I’m writing this blog. Very often these body languages are confusing and misread therefore, misinterpreted which translates to inaccurate guidance for the dog.
SADIE wasn’t afraid of the sign post, she was in overwhelm with this brand new world that held smells like she’s never smelled before, sights that were just too much to take in, sounds of nature, people talking, dogs barking… everything coming at her at once was just too overwhelming, so as she began to actually look around her, new things would strike her attention and well, ‘WHAT IS THAT?’ was her response as she stood frozen in place. The trail that I hike on is actually very quiet with few people or dogs and I hike only during the week and with my dogs, so they are her teachers, first. She was glued to them. I come in second for sure. Still it was a lot to take in.
The difference in a dog who’s displaying caution is very different that a dog who’s displaying fear.
The next images are from the Dog Decoder smartphone app about dog body language. Each scenario has three parts to it. The Pose, Information about the pose and finally Details: telling which body parts are talking.
The body posture is the most obvious but the more subtle ones are the ears, look away, head lowered, tail tucked, not just down, panting and open mouth.
When reading dog body language one must take into account the context of what is happening, while assessing the body parts talking in order to properly interpret what the dog is trying to say. This way you will be more apt to help the dog out with the proper guidance to make her feel more secure.
Learning to speak dog is crucial if you want a true bond with your dog. You can’t bond if you can’t communicate.