Dog body language – What do you see?
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.