Today I would like to highlight a beautiful film that will air tonight on Animal Planet – Hero Dogs of 9/11.
Back several years ago, when I was a new dog blogger, I had the opportunity to see a short film called by the very same name. The film was created by a fellow blogger and videographer, Kenn Bell of The Dog Files. I remember the social media sensation it caused and how my fellow bloggers and I shared it on Facebook and Twitter. It was emotional and touching and so beautifully filmed. The film Kenn Bell created was not only a memorial to the dogs who served on that day, but also a reminder to all of us that man’s best friend is so much more than “just a dog.” He is a rescuer, a companion, a friend, and a hero.
A few years later, Kenn’s film was featured at BlogPaws and it generated a lot of buzz from those who were there to see it. I may not have been there, but I watched it again at home and remembered the feelings and emotions I had on that day. Through all the horrors that day, and the long days afterwards, the hero dogs of 9/11 were there to search, to rescue and to comfort.
I have seen many of Kenn’s other wonderful videos featuring some of the most amazing dogs, but it is this one that has continued to resonate with me. So when I read that Kenn had been working on an expanded version of his original film, I was thrilled. How wonderful to see these amazing dogs recognized once again in an hour-long special.
You can read Kenn’s own thoughts on this momentous occasion, but I hope you will do more than that. I hope you will watch it when it airs tonight.
I promise. You won’t be disappointed.
Hero Dogs of 9/11 airs tonight, Tuesday, September 10 at 8 PM ET/PT (and 7 PM Central Time) on Animal Planet.
You can watch a preview here.
You can also watch another one of Kenn’s short films highlighting the ceremony that was held on September 11, 2011, to recognize the dogs who served on 9/11 – Hero Dogs of 9/11: Legacy.
Last year a friend shared a great video featuring a dog and a vet tech. I’ve been searching for it for a while because I though it would be a great one to share with you. It is a great example of how a dog can be speaking to us, but we may not be listening (or in this case, seeing) what they are telling us.
I also thought it might be a great way to test your knowledge on dog behavioral cues.
I confess that watching it again a year and a half later showed me just how out of practice I have become. I missed a quite a few the first time around. Take a look and tell me what you see. (Note: No one is hurt in this video).
Not sure? I’ve posted a list below. Feel free to read the list and then watch the video or watch the video, check the list and watch the video again. It’s amazing what we miss isn’t it?
Just out of curiosity, did anyone cringe like I did as you neared the end of the video? Do you know why? I think I know what made me cringe, but I’m wondering if anyone else caught it. (PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS RESPECTFUL. THANKS!)
Behavioral Signals seen in this video
Lip licking (hard to see)
Barking and increasing distance by backing up
Looking away several times
Stiff body posture
Stillness or freezing suddenly
Mouth closed tightly (a relaxed dog would have a slack jaw)
Hard stares (this is the one that got me at the end)
At no time does this dog look relaxed. To someone who doesn’t know what to look for, it may look like he is going back for attention, but everything else about his body posture and signals says differently.
So what is this dog telling us?
Based on what I see, I think he is nervous and uncomfortable, with both the petting and the close proximity of the vet tech. He cannot distance himself easily due to the small confines of the room. All his signals tell us he wants her to back off, but when that doesn’t work, he lets her know in a more pronounced way.
I have a really great book to share with you tomorrow, but today I thought I would share a video that my friend Kate ( certified dog trainer) shared this past weekend. It features a dog and a toddler.
No. It isn’t one of those videos that makes you cringe as you wait for the inevitable bite to occur (although I have seen many of those). It’s actually a great example of what to look for when you have a dog around children. It’s a demonstration of dog behavioral signals that most parents (and owners) miss.
Fortunately, the trainer taking the video knows what to look for and takes the time to slow it down so you can see what her dog is telling her about his comfort level around the toddler, her niece.
While many people might think this dog is “fine” around children he is actually telling her, and those around her, that he is not “fine.” Knowing what to look for is SO VERY important. I hope you will watch it and then share with other dog owners and parents.
Having been bitten twice as a child – both times in the face, I cannot stress how important it is for parents to supervise their children when around dogs. Even more important is parents (and dog owners) educating themselves about what a dog is telling them when around their child.
The human brain can be a funny thing.
Back when I was a pet sitter, I found myself so aware of everything that was going on around me. I would capture the faintest smell of spring flowers as I walked by someone’s well-tended garden. I knew all the sounds in the neighborhoods where I walked my client’s dogs – a train, a car in need of repair, a bird singing in the trees, a dog barking in a neighbor’s yard. I even noticed when something was out of place or unusual.
Sunrises and sunsets were so much more spectacular then too. I noticed how the sun lit up the clouds and how it changed the color of the sky or how it reflected on the water or off the trees.
I was an observer. All of my senses were engaged. Everything was in technicolor and came with surround sound. I noticed when a dog I was walking was nervous or scared or excited. I watched his every movement – a prick of the ears, a change in breathing, a stiffness to their gait. I observed them all, and from those observations I found myself better able to assess what I needed to do to help them or encourage them or protect them from harm.
But now that I am back in the corporate world, I am finding my senses dulled once again. Instead of observing my environment as separate and distinct pieces, I find my brain trying to mush them altogether like some hazy, out of focus memory.
Now when I observe a dog’s behavior, I find myself rushing past the small, but distinctly different, components and making a summation of the dog’s behavior based on a few behavioral cues. Not a good thing if you’re trying to better understand dog behavior (yes, I really am that much of a dog geek).
That’s why I was excited to participate in a recent group discussion about dog behavior. Instead of trying to interpret what a dog was trying to convey, the only goal of the group discussion was to record your observations of the dog – a furrowed brow, dilated pupils, ear position, body direction, etc. It was amazing how much more was captured as different people joined in on the discussion. It was also amazing how much I had missed. Yikes.
It made me realize just how much I had lost some of those skills I had honed as a pet sitter. How much easier it had become to skip past those small, little cues and head on over to making an assessment. It is clear that I have a lot to re-learn.
While I practice getting better at the observation part, I thought you guys might all want to try your hand at recording your own observations. Below are two photos (Photo A and Photo B) taken at my dog park. What do you see? What is noticeable about each of the dogs in the photos? What do you notice about their bodies, their ears, their eyes?
I’d love to get your observations.
Even though it may not feel like it here in Minnesota, spring is coming, and with it comes warmer temperatures. Many of us already know that leaving a dog in a hot car is dangerous. We have all seen the stories that usually accompany this time a year… “Two dogs dead after being left in hot car“, “Police sergeant rescues dog locked in hot car“, “Police Are Cracking Down on Dumb Dog Owners in Heatwave.”
But did you know that in several states it is illegal to leave your dog in a car? There are 14 states – Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia, that currently have statutes “that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in confined vehicle“.
The penalties range from monetary fines to being charged with a misdemeanor, and in some states, it even includes imprisonment. The Animal Legal and Historical Center website contains a list of the states with laws and what penalties apply. They even lay out what is allowed/not allowed in those states when it comes to rescuing an animal left in a car.
For instance, in Minnesota, the statute states:
“A peace officer, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation.
Don’t see your state on the list? That doesn’t mean there are no laws in your state. Many local city and county governments have ordinances covering this issue. Owners may want to know this information, not only for their own benefit, but also for those situations in which they see another owner’s dog in distress and don’t know what to do. You can read more on this issue here.
Just as a reminder on how hot a car can get, I am sharing this blog post by my friend by Julie at The Daily Dog Blog. She has a cool infographic that you can print out and share with your friends. I’m thinking I just may make a few copies and keep them in my car so I can hand them out when I see a dog left in a car.
Besides the Minnesota Sheltie Rescue Reunion, there was one other event I was really looking forward to attending – the Dog Body Language seminar being presented by my friend Kate Anders. Unfortunately, I let the crappy Minnesota winter (I refuse to call this spring) get to me. It snowed most of the morning and rained the rest of the day. I thought it would be too icy to venture out at night. I was wrong. I should have gone. I love attending seminars like these because I learn so much. (I am so sorry Kate!)
With that on my mind today, it shouldn’t be surprising that this video would capture my attention Monday night. My friend Mary Haight over at Dancing Dog Blog shared it. I was immediately fascinated.
It is a great example of the dog body language of a threatening dog. Some people might find the video funny, but what I saw was all the signals the dog gave that signaled an attack was about to happen. Can you pick out the signs? The most obvious one is the growl (notice how it is almost a panting growl), but there are more signals there. Try listening with the sound off. What do you see?
Not sure? Let’s walk through the many of the signs I see.
First, notice the dog’s eyes. They are staring straight ahead at the dog in the mirror – this is seen as a threatening behavior by most dogs. Two dogs staring at one another (a direct stare) is a sign that trouble may be just ahead (unlike two dogs playing with one another who will look at one another but also look away.)
Also notice how hard the dog’s eyes are compared to say, your dog. They are not soft and liquid. They are hard and focused and most likely dilated. They are not blinking either.
Now look at the body posture. The dog is leaning forward and his body is stiff. These are more warning signs.
This dog also shows his teeth and his upper lip and nose are wrinkled. More danger signs.
Not surprisingly, he did attack… the dog in the mirror.
In most cases, another dog will back down when faced with these kinds of body signals, and offer appeasement signals while doing so, but when faced with a dog that does not back down then it can escalate.
Does this mean this dog is a danger? Not necessarily. But it does mean that when faced with another dog giving threatening signals (and ignoring appeasement signals), he is not likely to back down either.
Obviously, in this case, neither dog could back down since it was the same dog and his reflection. While it may also seem funny to most people, to me it is a great lesson in dog body language.
*****Just wanted to add a few things my friend Dee caught that I missed: “Interesting to see a dog exhibiting threatening behaviors (freezes in place, stares straight at the dog in the mirror, doesn’t blink), interspersed with discomfort/appeasement (lip licking, slow, side-to-side tail wagging, some crouching). When he doesn’t get clear signals the other dog doesn’t mean him harm, the appeasement reverts to threats.” Thanks Dee!
In my early days with Daisy, I often would think refer to her as my tabula rasa, my little blank slate. Being a “normal” dog was so completely foreign to her back then that I’m not sure she even knew how to be a dog. Meeting other dogs (and people) was so new to her that when other dogs came up to her to say hello she would just stand there with a distant look in her eye. More often than not, the other dog would end up walking away with a noticeable air of disinterest. She was so completely foreign to them, like an alien from another planet. She just didn’t speak their language.
But, over time, I started to notice that Daisy was actually learning how to be a dog in the same way children model after their parents. She was watching what other dogs were doing and taking note. Whenever we went to the dog park, she would watch other dogs playing and try to mimic their behaviors. She made it her goal to learn as much as she could from them.
Of course, there was always an up and down side to that. She might be learning how to be a dog, but she was also learning some bad dog behaviors along the way. I was on constant guard to make sure she was surrounded by dogs I thought could show her the best way to be a happy and healthy dog. I didn’t want her learning behaviors that other dogs would find annoying or ones that might make her a less than desirable dog at the park. I know it sounds silly, but I am being completely serious when I say she watched how others dogs acted and tried to copy them – ALL OF THE TIME.
You may already know this, but dogs are observing a lot in their day-to-day lives. They are very keen on picking up on new behaviors displayed by other dogs. But they are just as keen on picking up on our own behaviors. Think your dogs don’t observe you? Try picking up your keys and walking towards the door. What did your dog do?
I think I was more aware of my dogs observing me and my behaviors than I was about them observing other dogs and their behavior. It wasn’t until Daisy that I began to realize just how much dogs observe other dogs and how much they learn from them.
When Jasper came into our lives at 9 months of age, he chewed on everything he could get his little teeth on. He tore up stuffed toys with a vengeance. He destroyed plastic toys and left little bits of them all over the house. Until Jasper came into our lives, Daisy never chewed up anything. Ever. Suddenly, she was chewing up frisbees and other plastic toys. She learned by observing Jasper.
When I started taking boarders into my home, Jasper learned from them just like Daisy learned from him. From Tuffy, he learned that a raised paw flicking in the air would get him a belly rub. He discovered the joys of squeaking a tennis ball over and over again from Maggie, who also seemed to savor her tennis balls in the very same way. He learned carrots could be quite tasty from our friend, Buddy.
When Cupcake joined our family, she learned new behaviors too. She learned from Jasper that putting your paws on my lap would get you lots of love and attention. From Daisy, she learned that running around in excitement would get me up off the couch to let her outside. She learned from both of Daisy and Jasper that stealing each other’s toys was okay and even acceptable behavior here. There is no hard and fast rule that what’s yours is yours. Everyone shared here.
Watching my own dogs has made me realize how much dogs are really observing in their environment. They are constantly watching us and other dogs, and they are constantly learning from those observations. They watch and they learn.
It made me wonder… What behaviors has your own dog learned by watching another dog? What behaviors has your dog learned by watching you? I would love to know.
A couple of weeks ago a friend posted on her Facebook page that her brain was hurting after attending a Suzanne Clothier seminar. I had to laugh. I could SO relate to what she was feeling. Back in November, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend two of the three sessions held by Suzanne here in Minnesota.
To say the sessions were mind-blowing would be an understatement. I can still remember driving home after that first session and feeling like the synapses in my brain were going off all at once. I learned more about dogs in those first three hours than I had ever learned before. I’m pretty sure I said “Wow.” at least twenty times during that first night’s drive home.
The second session was just as mind-blowing as the first and included a lot of real life demonstrations using dogs with real issues. It was exciting to be able to pick out some of the behavioral cues being given by the dogs as Suzanne worked with them.
But the highlight of the session (for me) was a video Suzanne showed during her last session. When I say it was a highlight I mean that it gave me that “A-ha” moment, a moment of insight into myself and into dogs.
Suzanne introduced the video by saying that what we were about to see was an initial meeting between a potential adopter ( a man) and a Shepherd/Husky/Lab mix. The man had come in to meet the dog after seeing his picture on the internet. He was certain that this was the dog for him.
We watched the video in silence as the man met the dog outside. Right away, it was evident that the dog had no interest in the man. As they stood on the gravel driveway, the dog made it clear that he wanted distance. He stood at the very end of the leash and put his back to the man (facing out and away from him). When the man tried to pull the dog in closer to him, he resisted and tried to maintain some distance from him.
When the man sat down on the ground, he pulled the dog in towards him and tried to hug him. The dog tolerated it way more than most people would have, but it was clear from his body language that he wanted no part of it. He pulled away, and even when pulled in close, looked uncomfortable and stiff and always faced away from the man. There were also a lot of yawns and lip-licking (signs of stress in a dog).
As I watched the video, I remember being irritated with the man for not recognizing the dog wanted nothing to do with him. Couldn’t he see the dog was resistant to his attention? Couldn’t he see the dog did not want a hug?
I was so caught up in the dog’s behavioral signals that I had failed to notice something else, something that Suzanne later pointed out – the man’s behavior. In every move and action, he was telling us what kind of dog he wanted,. He wanted a dog who was affectionate and wanted to be close to him. Throughout the video, he made every attempt to create this closeness – pulling the dog towards him,, hugging him, holding him, etc.. The only problem was that he was trying to create that closeness with a dog who clearly preferred distance. This was a dog who probably preferred to sleep on the floor across the room from you or maybe at you feet, not a dog who wanted to be hugged.
What I had completely missed throughout the video was the dynamic between the man and the dog. Suzanne called it a mismatch, and she was completely right. It was a mismatch. The guy was a perfectly nice gentleman, and the dog was a perfectly wonderful dog – they just wanted very different things from one another.
As I thought about it even more, I started to realize how similarly matched me and my dogs are to one another. I am not someone who wants constant affection and attention from my dogs, and funny enough, my dogs are not interested in giving it back to me on a constant basis either. That’s not to say that I don’t like to cuddle with my dogs from time to time. I do. It’s just I prefer not to have a dog glued to my side and needing to touch me at every moment of the day. I like that my dogs prefer to sleep on the floor at night. I love that they have some sense of independence from me.
And yet I know, for other dog owners, this would be the exact opposite of what they want. They want that closeness. They want the little dog in their lap at night… and you know what? That’s totally okay. In the end, it’s making sure that the dog you have matches what you want and that what you both have a need for the same things.
So it made me curious… Do you consider yourself someone who wants that closeness with a dog? Or someone who prefers a little independence and distance? Do you consider you and your dog well-matched? If so, why do you think so?
And, have you ever had a dog that was a mismatch for you and how did you know?
Unlike the videos I share most weeks, this video doesn’t have cute little dogs running through snow or playing with a cat. But it does have some beautiful pictures and the most wonderful words. I strongly suspect you will be sharing this with all your dog-loving friends after you watch it.
Clearly God must love a dog. And really, who can blame him?
Happy Friday everyone!