Archive for the ‘Understanding Your Dog’ Category

Car Chasing: Why Do Dogs Risk Death?

Gemma | April 16th, 2013
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The brakes squeal, the car swerves, the inevitable THUD of wheel meeting dog is followed by the sickening crash of the careening, out-of-control automobile. The victims? The dog, of course. The occupants, presumably. But who was at fault? The dog’s owner!

Whether legally guilty or not, the responsibility for the dog’s actions rest solely upon the shoulders of the dog owner, just as surely as a parent is responsible for the actions of his child.

Are We To Blame?

There are many reasons for such offensive behavior in dogs. Foremost, is simply the thrill of the chase. The instinct is strong in canines. Many mothers have warned their children to never run from a dog because it triggers an instinctive drive in the dog to pursue, overcome, and emerge victorious.

The wild canine ran down his prey. Nature gave him the instinct and the speed with which to accomplish the task. Chasing prey in the wild was serious business, and necessary for survival. And of course, there always was the thrill of the chase.

The domesticated dog no longer needs to chase prey for survival, but the thrill of pursuit still is a part of his natural instinct. Man capitalizes on that instinct with sporting dogs in the field. Man exploits the instinct in greyhounds by making them racing dogs, chasing a mechanical rabbit. And, combat tracker dogs chase an elusive enemy through the jungle.

An instinctive protectiveness is responsible, in many cases, for dogs chasing cars. They chase only the cars approaching their territory. What’s needed here is communication. It would be quite easy if we could just sit down with our dogs over a cup of coffee and say something like Look buddy, we have a problem here… but unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. And even if your dog responds to your verbal command of NO or STOP as he sees a moving car, he will always dash after the car in your absence.

Minimizing The Thrill

A way must be found to minimize the thrill and emphasize the disastrous consequences of chasing moving vehicles. While the thrill of the chase is instinctive and never can be entirely erased, it can be minimized, and made less important than the consequences of the behavior.

Most dogs learn to avoid situations where they can relate a negative experience to that situation. However, for those dogs that have been hit by cars, and survived, they typically will not retain the experience. The reason for this is because the shock of being struck by an automobile is usually so sudden, and so severe, that the dog just isn’t able to relate the pain to the automobile, or his behavior prior to the chase.

But along with the instinct to chase, mother nature also implanted something else; the ability of the dog to learn by association. He is capable of learning by associating his actions with pleasing, or displeasing results. You must successfully educate your dog to let him know that cars and bicycles are deadly.

How To Understand What Your Dog Is Saying – Part 5

Alan | July 30th, 2008
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Reading your dog like a book in order to understand his dog language is reasonably uncomplicated most of the time. His body language is straightforward generally, but he can sometimes fool you.

If he is frightened, for example, rather than friendly or curious, he is likely to bite you. A good indicator of his level of courage is the angle of his tail. If, as you come closer, he keeps his tail high and appears even more aggressive, he probably isn’t bluffing.

If his tail drops and he becomes quiet, he probably would just as soon be friends. However, if is his hackles stay up, even though his tail goes down, he is still dangerous and you should keep your distance.

Because we sometimes think of our pets as having almost human personalities, we are likely to interpret their body language in terms of our own likes and dislikes. We can do that up to a point because they’ve learned some of their preferences. Nevertheless, we have our differences.

Some Things You May Not Know

Your dog very likely has a few predilections you would never have suspected and probably will never approve. When he is rolling around in some stinky, odorous material, for example, the expression he has on his face could hardly be interpreted as anything but outright rebellion. His lips are pulled back a little in a slight grin (a smirk perhaps), his ears are lowered (because he must feel guilty), and his eyelids are half-closed in an expression of pure defiance.

There’s another way to make a mistake in reading your dog’s body language. Some smart dogs can play-act. An outdoor dog who has once been let in the house because he seems to be shivering on a cold night (in reality, dogs shiver from fear, not from the cold) will attempt to shake violently at the door whenever he feels he has a chance at a cozy evening by the fire.

A dog may play-act when he has accidentally barked at his own master. Nothing is more embarrassing; he will writhe on the ground when he realizes his error. To save face, a quick-witted dog will rush past his master and pretend he was barking at something else. He charges across the yard, furiously barking up the wrong tree, so to speak.

Most dogs are adept at one kind of body language that is plainly unambiguous. He speaks it when he lays his nose on your knee and looks up inquiringly with soft brown eyes, or when he muzzles the back of your neck while you are driving.

He is speaking his own language of love that has made him man’s best friend for thousands of years, and no dog owner has ever needed instructions in dog body language to get this message!

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How To Understand What Your Dog Is Saying – Part 4

Alan | July 25th, 2008
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Ever notice that your dog does funny stuff with his ears, tail, and other forms of body movement? This is his way of saying, Hey you, yeah you! I’m talking to ya. Are you listening?

For example, a dog often uses his forepaw to show that he wants to keep the peace. He gives a paw to his master when he wants to ask his forgiveness after digging up the flower bed.

Raising one forepaw forward to another dog is a sign of submission. He is indicating that he will roll over, if necessary, to demonstrate his total compliance.

When he raises both forepaws alternately, he is telling you he wants to play. A persistent paw patting and pulling on your arm is an insistent request for some undivided attention.

In a confrontation, a dog attempts to establish his position in the dominant-submissive hierarchy by the posture and position of his body. When two dogs meet and set out to decide who is dominant, they will stand side to side, as if to say, By gosh, I’m the biggest dog. I’m the boss.

A dramatic dog will arch his neck, raise his shoulder and rump hackles, extend all four legs stiffly, and look like he’s standing on tiptoe. One of them may push against the other one. The dog who is giving in will remain completely still if he is touched.

If the submissive dog is really frightened, he will roll over, as if to say, I’m all yours. Do what you want.

The dominant dog will then think, I’ve got a chicken here. He won’t do anything… he’s a non-threat, lying there. The confrontation is then over.

Sometimes a dog feels proud and he prances. He might be thinking, I’ve got me a shoe. That’s the one I got whipped for last week, but I got it again!

When a dog lowers his front end, leaves his tail end up, makes a nose-stab, then leaps backward and runs off, he is inviting you to play. When you see him race in circles, he is overjoyed about something probably your arrival.

An ambivalent dog who is growling and wagging his tail widely at the same time is difficult to read. He may feel friendly or inquisitive about you; he may also feel that he must defend his territory.

On the other hand, he may feel aggressive and unfriendly, but afraid he can’t defend himself. And unless you can figure out where he stands, you may do something to get yourself bitten so be careful and pay attention.

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How To Understand What Your Dog Is Saying – Part 3

Alan | July 23rd, 2008
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Most dog owners forget that the easiest way to bond with their pet, not to mention when also training the dog, is to understand basic dog language body language, that is.

Let’s talk about a dog’s tongue. He uses it primarily for getting food and water, and for cooling himself. When speaking body language, he licks you with it to show his friendliness and to ask for attention. A dog that licks walls and eats dirt or dust, however, and does so without the need of a supplement in his diet, is desperate for attention or company.

His tongue can also tell you when he has swallowed his pill after being given a vitamin or medication. When it has gone down, his tongue will pop out like a frog’s two times in quick succession.

Watching His Eyes

Now let’s discuss how a dog uses his eyes to talk. How a dog moves his eyes can tell you much about his mood. A dog who is being submissive avoids eye contact with a dominant dog. One that is trying to make up with his master looks away from him in an exaggerated way. A contented dog curled up in a corner has a sleepy-eyed look.

On the other hand, a direct stare from a dog says he feels aggressive and means to have you keep your distance. When veterinarians are working with dogs in their medical rooms, they should be watching the eyes more than anything else to determine which dog might snap at him.

A good rule to follow for safety is this: A dog that watches every move you make is probably about to bite you!

Perking Up Those Ears

Dogs speak with their ears as well as listen with them. A dog holding his ears straight up, forward, and erect, is alert. He may be checking on something he heard. He may be considering the possibility of a serious scuffle with an enemy or some friendly romping with his master.

A dog with lowered, relaxed ears is calm and sociable. If he is showing submissiveness or is frightened, he’ll keep them very low. A dog making a threat (and on the verge of attacking) twists his ears outward and downward, laying them flat against his head.

The Voice Of Reason

A dog’s vocal repertoire of whines, howls, growls, and barks are part of his body language. Noises are what he resorts to when he considers it imperative that someone get his message.

A dog that goes Yip. Yip. Yip… yip, yip… yip! for hours on end is usually bored. Likely he has been confined and left alone.

Sometimes he will vary his yips with a frustrated-sounding Arrrrr, rarr, arrarrrr.

A wailing puppy begging for attention delivers a high-pitched Mmm, mmm, mmmmm, usually in the dead of night.

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How To Understand What Your Dog Is Saying – Part 2

Alan | July 19th, 2008
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When your dog is talking, do you listen? Are you paying attention?

Barking is not the topic here, but rather, the way our dogs communicate to us and the world around them with the use of their body language, specifically the tail.

There are lots of different wags. Plain, ordinary, enthusiastic wagging means I’m a friendly fella! A slow wag is the nervous laugh of a dog who is embarrassed about something. A tail held high and wagged widely, instead of only slightly, means he wants to play. If he wiggles up to you after you have disciplined him, wagging his tail between his hind legs, he is saying he wants to make up and is sorry.

Most of a dog’s nosing around is done for identification purposes. When he approaches another dog, the first thing he does is sniff him out to discover whether he is friend or foe. First he smells the rear; then he smells the face.

When your dog props his paws on your chest or shoulders, he is trying to get in position to smell your breath. He can tell whether it’s you for sure, and what you’ve been eating that he might get some of!

You can often tell immediately whether a dog cares for your company by noticing the position of his lips. When he draws the corners of his lips forward, he is feeling distinctly antisocial. He may become aggressive and could attack, especially if he has drawn his lips open to show his teeth. However, when he pulls back horizontally so that he appears to be grinning, he is expressing his friendliness or submissiveness.

When he feels very submissive, he will smile like a simpleton. He looks like he’s feeling silly and has lots of waggle. A few dogs are capable of the mimic grin, something they have learned from humans and display only to humans. They retract their lips to show their front teeth in a wide toothpaste smile.

A dog that uses those teeth to chew up your slippers may be telling you that he is unhappy. A chewing dog is a fretting dog. A pet that gets a lot of attention otherwise, but is left shut in the house alone all day will fret in this manner. When he is lonely and unhappy, and he wants something done now then he becomes like a hyperactive child. He’s liable to chew up everything in the house eventually.

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How To Understand What Your Dog Is Saying – Part 1

Alan | July 16th, 2008
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Your dog has the ability to tell you exactly how he feels whether he is happy, sad, bored, excited, disgusted, puzzled, confident, uneasy or frightened.

The inconspicuous and almost continuous movements of his eyes, ears, body and tail are his emotional body language and his primary means of communication. Researchers are finding that, rather than being limited in their means of expression, animals are attuned to an extremely subtle and refined system of communication.

The wild dogs of Africa studied by Jane Goodall and wolves observed by Dr. Michael W. Fox, recognized authority on canine body language, communicated to each other a wide range of attitudes, including anger, dominance, submission, joy, interest, disgust, dismay, affection and fear using only the slightest body movements.

Though domesticated dogs have lost some sensitivity to this language in their dealings with humans, they still use most of these instinctive, inherited forms of communication. With practice, a sensitive observer with a keen eye can learn to read his dog’s body language.

As he becomes more skilled at identifying subtle changes of mood in his pet, his communication and companionship with him will grow deeper and more pleasurable.

Veterinarians with long experience often read canine body language well, noticing the smallest nuances. Dr. Theodore Stanton, a veterinarian who has practiced now for more than forty years, has become an expert at it. He frequently acts as interpreter for his patients when their owners bring them in for treatment and ask him why their dog is doing certain peculiar things.

Among Dogs, as among most animals, a hierarchy exists in every group, says Dr. Stanton.

He goes on to say, From the most dominant ‘top dog’ to the lowest ‘under dog,’ each dog works out with each other in the group which of them will be dominant and which will be submissive. Much of a dog’s body language is used in the context of establishing these dominant-submissive relationships with other dogs and also with people.

A dog uses every part of his body in some way to express his feelings and intentions. The appendage he uses most conspicuously and expressively is his tail.

You can tell everything by a dog’s tail, explains Mr. Stanton, He holds it up when he is alert and expecting something. If he has met a strange dog or heard an unusual sound, it quivers a little. He is saying, ‘I’m ready for danger; I’m ready for anything!

The Doctor finishes with, A tail held very high almost vertically or arched over his back says he feels aggressive and dominant, and intends to do something about it if necessary. The dog with his tail tucked tightly between his hind legs is saying, ‘I’m scared, and I’m getting out of here!’

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Dog Psychology: Do Dogs & Other Animals Have Emotions?

Janet | July 15th, 2008
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Animal behaviorists have always been fascinated about studying whether or not dogs and other animals have emotions. While some researchers conduct ongoing studies to find scientific evidence, regular folks like you and I could answer that question immediately with a resounding Yes!

Having been around dogs and other animals all of my life I can tell you that these lovable companions have emotions just like you and I. All you have to do is look at them, watch them, and listen. Watch their faces change expression and their tail and body showing signs of communication in connection with people and other animals. Common sense can clearly show that what a dog displays on the outside tells an enormous amount of information of what’s going on inside.

Most animal behaviorists start their research with the thought of what it would be like to be a dog. Skepticism is the initial drive which these men and women spark their research with. They wonder if dogs and other animals actually feel anything inside. As you can probably guess, since you cannot place an emotion under a microscope, most scientists dismiss the idea.

However, as time goes on, more and more people are becoming less skeptical about the idea of dogs and other animals having emotions. For example, there are scientific journals that are considered prestigious publications who have reported such findings as rats experiencing joy, mice that have empathy, and elephants which feel grief. Now with this information is clearly founded that yes, your dog and mine, has emotions.

Now the big question is, why? Why have emotions evolved in certain species as adaptation tools to their environment? The answer could be in the possibility that these emotions have evolved to become somewhat of a social sticky which glues the bond between animals and each other for a variety of social reasons.

Interesting Examples

We know that emotions allow animals to be flexible and adaptable to there behavior through a variety of venues. An interesting study has reported that mice are empathetic, yet they’re also fun loving. Other reports show that iguanas seek pleasure, baboons become angry, and elephants – surprisingly enough – have flashbacks and post traumatic stress disorder. That’s not all, we have reports that fish are sentient and that otters show affection as well as grief.

Many researchers also concluded that animals which are living as companions to humans, especially dogs, can develop specific emotions due to our relationship with them. There are quite a few common emotional traits that are shared by both dogs and people alike.

Dog Communication: Are You Listening? – Part 3

Samantha | July 12th, 2008
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Do you have the ability to understand what it is your dog is saying? Learning how these animals communicate is not only beneficial to proper training, it also helps tighten the bond between man’s best friend and his owner.

In addition to using his barking, tail wagging, and body movements, dogs can also relay messages by the language of ear positions. The frightened dog tells of his submissive attitude to man by flattening his ears as well as lowering himself on haunches.

Also, in the last step in the sequence of aggression just before attack, the dog folds his ears close to his head and bares his teeth. But in the first step of aggressive movement, the dog picks up his ears to a vertical position.

Even the dog with hanging ears will pull the base of his ears forward, which makes the rest of his ears stand forward and outward. This upright position tells his human handler that there is every reason to be alert or on guard.

During World War II, the marines of M Company of the Second Raider Battalion laid their lives on the line in their dependence on the ability of their dogs to communicate to them what was ahead. While he was in the thick of battle, a Doberman named Andy had advanced from the shore to the jungle on Bougainville Island.

Andy liked to work off his leash. The dog was about ten yards ahead of the men when he froze and alerted his ears. The soldiers knew that those stiffened ears meant that there was a Japanese sniper just ahead. The scout leader sent two riflemen ahead, and they sprayed a mangrove tree with bullets. The sniper fell out. That same day Andy silently alerted his handler to snipers on two other occasions.

Now you might not have your own dog trained to such an elite degree, but you don’t have to in order to know how well your dog supplements his silent body language with his vocal communication. The vocal vocabulary has numerous and varied forms your dog whimpers, whines, signs, grunts, hums, coons, howls, squeals, growls, and barks.

Your dog can vary his barking enough to communicate with you. Almost subconsciously, you have no doubt learned to understand the nuances of your pet’s barking. These minute differences may be in the tone, the frequency, the rhythm and the level of loudness. Your pet may bark to show his excitement, his pleasure, his sense of fear, and the need for your attention.

And your dog, by his tail-wagging, his licking, nosing, barking, howling and his many clever individual expressions, talks to you. Your pet tells you how much he wants to be your protector, your companion and your best friend. Like dogs throughout the ages, your dog has become your friend by his uncanny ability to communicate.

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Dog Communication: Are You Listening? – Part 2

Samantha | July 10th, 2008
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When you verbally ask someone a question you expect an answer, right? A well-mannered, thought-out response is always appreciated and humans talk with their mouths and voice boxes to respond. This is how we interact, mostly with words to let others know how we feel.

Dogs, on the other hand, communicate in a very different way. Yes they bark and use their vocal cords to cry about something, but the number one way to read how a dog is feeling or what he wants you to know is by looking at his tail.

As your dog wags his tail in happiness, he may also exercise the rest of his body to tell you that you are a welcome sight. He may greet you by jumping, dancing around, and attempting to lick your face.

As one dog trainer, Chris, tells of his German short-haired pointer, named Tiger, your dog can let you know when he is approaching a place which associates with comfort and happiness.

When Chris, who spent many hours out of the house to play golf and hunt, would come home from his long day and driving hours to get home, his wife would comment on how Tiger’s ears would perk up and the dog would show ripples of excitement up and down his back in awaiting Chris’s return.

What is amazing is that these signs of excitement to greet his owner at the door, Tiger would start to become anxious and happy when Chris was still more than an hour away driving home.

In addition to their expression of elation, dogs many times warns their owners of danger. You have probably heard many emotional stories of dogs scratching at the bedroom door to warn the family that the house was on fire. It happens all of the time.

One woman was suffering a heart attack while her dog literally broke through the backyard screen door to get to the husband, barking fiercely in the attempt to get the husband’s attention of what was happening inside the house. It worked the woman survived.

Dogs also communicate with people by using their head and nose as part of the body actions. My three-year-old Dachshund nosed a message to me one afternoon. Sandy had learned that the covered candy dish on the coffee table was a good place to satisfy her sweet tooth.

This particular day, I was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper, and I wasn’t paying attention to Sandy. She jumped up on the couch and nudged me with her nose. When I looked at her, she gave her head a jerk, pointing her nose straight at the candy dish.

After sensing that I knew what she wanted, she began to jump up and down as if to say, Please, please, please! Just one little piece! I had understood very well what my dog was saying with her nonverbal head and nose language.

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Dog Communication: Are You Listening? – Part 1

Samantha | July 7th, 2008
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You’ve just gotten home after a brutal day at work. The headache from your busy schedule would love nothing more than to be relieved by a warm welcome from your family.

As soon as you open the door you hear the high-pitched voice of your wife as she is scolding your ten-year-old son, while his little sister is sobbing because he broke one of her new dolls.

The television is loud and your Mother-in-law is chatting on the phone…

So who is the loving one that meets you at the door?

Sammy does, your three-year-old mongrel dog.

He’s wagging and wiggling from his head to the tip of his tail. He dances and jumps into your waiting arms, and, if you allow him, he licks you on the face. He’s glad to see you. Your dog has expressed himself in the language that he knows you understand.

Your dog, like pet dogs all over the world, use body language and a variety of vocal sounds to communicate with his owner. The dog possesses an incredible ability to communicate with his owner: a universal language, telling man of danger, desire, loyalty and love.

Your dog talks to tell you how sad he is when he’s scolded. He shouts loud and clear his distress when a stranger or something unusual approaches, and he talks to you about how happy he is to be near you and share your companionship.

Your dog talks best with his tail. When you accidentally step on your pet or upbraid him, he will tuck his tail between his legs and cower down, showing his submission. By tucking the tail, the dog is hiding his scent and thus hiding himself. This language seems to go back to the ancient wild dog when submissiveness and dominance existed in the pack.

Your pet’s ancestors signaled his subservience to the dominant dog by dropping that tail. Today, the domesticated dog is saying, I feel terrible about what happened.

In contrast to the submissive tail movement, there is that happy, excited tail-wagging that states how much your dog wants to please you. The following story is such an example of this need to please:

Max, a Collie, did his doggiest best to please his young owner while she was preparing for her wedding. Max had watched Angelica opening her wedding gifts the week before the ceremony. One afternoon, the Collie proceeded to provide a gift for Angelica…

He yanked a brocade pillow from a neighbor’s clothesline and brought it home. After placing the pillow at Angelica’s feet, he wagged his tail in sheer joy that he was pleasing his owner and sharing her prenuptial pleasures.

As you can see from this wonderfully heartwarming example of this Collie’s desire to communicate pleasure, dogs are also much more intelligent than we give them credit for, especially in the communication department.

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