Home > Dog Behavior, Dog Training, Pet Videos > Dog to Dog Interaction in Slow Motion – What do you see?

Dog to Dog Interaction in Slow Motion – What do you see?

IMG_0536Recently, Amy, a commenter on one of my posts, shared that she and her dog park friends like to watch their dogs’ interactions and try to identify specific behavioral signals. I remember thinking at the time how very cool it was that they did that. How rare. How exciting.

Can you remember a time when you and your friends watched your dogs interact and tried to catch all that was being communicated between them? I can’t. 

When we’re at the dog park, I try to make sure my dogs and I are constantly moving – mostly for the exercise, but also because it keeps us away from any possible trouble that might occur up front.

But often when we are heading back to the car, or stopping for a drink of water, I will watch the other dogs interact. It’s amazing what you can see when you listen with your eyes. So much is communicated in the eyes, ears, body and mouth of a dog. There’s so much we miss by not watching them.

Since I can’t bring you to the dog park with me, I thought I would share another dog video with you. I thought this might be a good one to share, not only because it is chock full of dog body language, but also because it is taped in slow motion. It allows you to see so much more than a video at normal speed.  It’s been around for a while, but so worth watching.

As usual, I’ve posted my observations below, but I encourage you to write down or make mental note of the behavioral signals you see and share any I might have missed.

DId you find yourself cringing (like me) in the first minute? Why? Why not?  What did you see as the video progressed? Was there something that stood out in the video when you watched it? I am very excited to read your own observations. 

P.S. You may want to make the screen larger so you can catch everything. The video owner also shared his observations through out the video. (Note: Neither dog was injured in this video.)

Curious what all this means? The Whole Dog Journal has a Canine Stress Dictionary listing all or most of these behaviors and what they mean.

Body language I saw:


As he approaches…

  • Lowered head
  • Forward leaning
  • Long gait

As they meet…

  • Ears pricked
  • Direct stare (at the other dog)
  • Tight mouth
  • Slight lip licking (several times)
  • Pulls head up and back as brown dog turns head
  • Blinks once
  • Sniffs brown dog near his ear
  • Ears turn from forward to sideways as the brown dog’s head comes back around and under the husky’s mouth
  • Body leaning forward, appears to be on his toes
  • Tail is still
  • Pilo-erection (i.e., raised hackles)
  • Sniff’s the brown dog’s shoulder
  • Blinks again
  • Slight lip lick
  • Turns head away
  • Turns head back
  • Leash is pulled
  • Mouth opens and teeth show
  • Lunges at brown dog

Brown dog: 

As he approaches…

  • Relaxed mouth
  • Lowered head
  • Ears relaxed and then come forward a bit
  • Sniffs ground
  • Leans sideways a bit and approaches from the side as they get closer

As they meet…

  • Approaches with head lower than they Husky’s head
  • Ears back
  • Lip licks (twice)
  • Tail wagging in a circular motion
  • Lowers head to come just below other dog
  • Blinks/Squints
  • Turns head
  • Pulls back slightly
  • Turns head slightly back and then turns away again, even further away
  • Lip licks (twice)
  • Turns head back towards the Husky
  • Lowers head below Husky’s head
  • Swings head back under Husky’s jaw and lifts it up next to Husky’s head (near his eye)
  • Lip licks
  • Tail still swinging in circles
  • Turns head away
  • Turns head back again
  • Head lower than Husky’s head
  • Lip licks
  • Leaning back
  • One paw slightly off the ground
  • Body turned slightly to the side instead of head on
  • Lifts head so nose is near Husky’s ear and then lowers it again
  • Lowers head as Husky’s head turns away and goes over his head
  • Lip licks
  • Snout raises and towards Husky’s neck on the opposite side
  • Lip lick
  • Pulls back and leaps sideways as Husky starts to snark

At the end of the video…

  • Ears pricked forward
  • Mouth tight
  • Lip licks turns head away

Curious what all this means? The Whole Dog Journal has a Canine Stress Dictionary listing all or most of these behaviors and what they mean.

  1. July 29, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    Coincidentally we were just at the dog park yesterday. Donna is usually quite nervous about the dog park, but she was surprisingly relaxed so we went in. While she was still jumpy when some dogs approached, she was quick to slink under the park bench for refuge (submissive but not fearfully) and then to come out for a sniff or two and slink back in again. Her reaction was a lot more positive, less fearful than the last few times we were inside, afterwhich we decided to just hang out outside instead and not go in at all. So we left her alone to explore without too much intervention although our eyes were on her all the way!

    I was a little concerned when she eventually ended up playing with a dog bigger than her. Her tail was in a friendly wide wag, but the other dog’s was a pretty stiff wag which I read on Linda’s blog means the dog has not really decided to be friendly yet. But they did several rounds of wrestling and trying to mount each other. Donna’s behaviour was pretty much like that brown dog up there, ears back, relaxed mouth. We gave them about 15 minutes playtime and then cut it short since we wanted to end things on a good note.

    What I’m nervous about generally is that while I think I can read my own dog at an acceptable level by now, it is very challenging for me to tell how the strange dogs are behaving in reaction to our own dog, particularly if they are a different breed, have different ears, short/no tails, etc etc.

    And somethings, like you point out, one can only see on video in slow motion. Alot of times, things can happen really fast and we won’t really catch those subtle signs. Great video. Thanks for posting!

    • Mel
      July 29, 2013 at 6:52 AM

      I am glad Donna is feeling a little more comfortable.

      Like you, I have gotten pretty good at reading my own dog’s behaviors, but other dogs can also be a challenge. I think being able to see the multitude of signals being given can help draw a more complete picture – like whether the other dog has a loose body, relaxed mouth and does play bows, in addition to the stiff wagging tail. As you said in your comment, things can happen really fast. Being able to catch them all quickly is definitely hard to do.

      Still, I am impressed that you have gotten so good at knowing your own dog’s behaviors. That is huge.

      • July 29, 2013 at 10:05 AM

        oh maybe it’s just me thinking it’s an acceptable level :P, I’m sure there’s lots of stuff I still don’t know. I guess, I was so fixated on looking at Donna trying to be sure that she is alright that I didn’t spend too much time looking at her playmate to see the multitude of signs he may be giving out. Shall have to continue to work on that. Thanks for the reply 🙂

  2. July 29, 2013 at 12:57 AM

    I don’t know that I could catch the little points like you did Mel. I ended up watching the overall body position as a whole. The lowered head, the stiff body, on toes. That boy wasn’t moving, just waiting for the opportunity to strike. It was just like watching Brut when he encounters a dog. Except we would never get that close.

    Very interesting though. Sometimes I wish dogs would operate in slow motion. BOL! Might make it easier to catch things before they happen. 🙂

    • Mel
      July 29, 2013 at 6:38 AM

      Maybe this will make you feel better – I watched the video over and over again. I focused on one dog first and wrote down all of his behaviors, and then focused on the other dog and did the same thing. The only advantage I had was time nothing more. 🙂

      It sure would be nice if everything was in slow motion though! LOL!

      Mostly though, it just takes practicing over and over again. I will sometimes watch a dog show on Animal Planet and see how much I can catch. It gets easier to see with time.

  3. July 29, 2013 at 6:40 AM

    This is so interesting. I feel that I am getting better at reading dogs now. My friend said her Jack Russell snaps at other dogs without warning but I’ve noticed it doing a few of those things. She hasn’t really socialized him so I think that might explain why he behaves like that husky in situations where he meets other dogs.

    Do you have any tip on how to socialize him? He’s a pretty nervous dog anyway, but only with other dogs. He’s fine with cats, rabbits, and even calm round guinea pigs. I can’t decide if he feels threatened or if its something else


    • Mel
      July 29, 2013 at 7:04 AM

      Wow. A Jack Russell that is good with rabbits? Now I’m impressed!

      Socialization, or lack of it, can make a huge difference in dog to dog interactions. He may feel threatened, or he may feel nervous or scared. He may also have a need for more personal space than other dogs. It’s hard to know. Of course, he may just prefer to be an only dog, and that’s okay too. 🙂

      If he is nervous, you may want to have your friend check out Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) training. It’s a way to help him feel less nervous around other dogs.

      • July 29, 2013 at 7:42 AM

        I am surprised by how good he is with her rabbit HunnyBunny but he really isn’t phased by it at all. I’m guessing he is nervous so I’ll send her those links.



  4. July 29, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Mom is very conscious when I socialize with other dogs especially I am a senior dog. She gets nervous cause behavior/dog’s body language can change in an instance. Great video. Golden Thanks for sharing. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  5. July 29, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    I find it had to catch fast interactions. I’ve found still pictures really helpful. With a lot of dogs milling around, it’s hard to see who is doing what.

    The slow motion was extremely helpful.

    I noticed one other things about the brown dog. Did you notice that his tail wagged so far to the left that it touched is body? But when the tail wagged to the right, it did not travel so far?

    I once read about a study that said dogs wag more to the right when they like something and more to the left when they don’t. I’ve observed it in Honey since I’ve been looking for it.

    The brown dog was definitely not wagging more to the right.

    • Amy
      July 29, 2013 at 2:33 PM

      Wow, that’s fascinating! I already watch for different sorts of tail wags – now I have another variable to add! Thanks for sharing that – will be interesting to see if I notice a difference – in my own dog and in others.

      • July 29, 2013 at 6:53 PM

        Here’s a description of the study in case you’re interested: http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070319/full/news070319-6.html

      • Mel
        July 30, 2013 at 7:00 AM

        Thanks Pamela! I actually had read this one. I also read another one that suggested some dogs have a predisposition for wagging to one side more than another, kind of like being left-handed. I wonder how that skews things? Can the two studies both be right? 🙂

        I did not catch the tail wagging mostly to the left on the brown dog. Good catch!

  6. July 29, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    It will take a lot of observation to get really good at picking up on the language. They are so fast and the change of the signs can be subtle.
    After a half day at a doggie daycare, Beamer has come out of his shell with other dogs, and now some should go back! At an hour long puppy social the next day he became a dominate dog to a little Chi that at first scared him. After some correction he reverted to quiet and shy. He is learning how to act and I’m learning the language at the same time. He needs to learn when to reign it in and when it’s okay to chase and be chased.
    As far as watching for the tail wag direction; that will be nearly impossible with Beamer. Unfortunately, the breeder docker his tail. ;( But, it’s so cute to watch that little thing wiggle.

  7. victorialynncarter
    July 29, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    In my opinion, based off personal experience with northern breed dogs (both my own and strange), I’m wanting to say that initial rough/dominant greeting is a standard greeting. Of course not all of them will be that way, just saying the ones I’ve met as well as my own, tend to greet that way (minus the snarking). I think it has something to do with the initial breeding for obstinacy in the northern sledding and working breeds.

    With mine at least, it passes after the other dog politely ignores them, or I verbally tell them (in a warning tone) to knock it off.

    Of course I can tell when my dogs are just showboating or being serious. I avoid any situation that I know will trigger scuffles as much as possible, and make it a point to interact with the owner of the dogs mine are playing with to keep a calm and relaxed environment (as I’m sure we are all aware they do tend to pick up on our emotional and physical queues while we are out as well).

    I’ve also noticed as my two northern mixes have aged, they have less and less tolerance for puppy antics. So we tend to go for walks and swims more than the park. My other two still enjoy the park and playing with other pups.

  8. Amy
    July 29, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    Great video, Mel, thanks for sharing that. I only have a few minutes now, but plan to come back later and take a closer look. Love that it is in slow motion!

    I am still watching the dogs at the dog park – like you mentioned, it is sometimes difficult because I am so aware of my own dog. But it is getting easier. I usually go early in the morning when there are only a few dogs – for one thing, Star is better with fewer dogs than with a crowd, but it is also easier to watch body language when there are only one or two in the mix. I do sometimes think of going without Star (gasp!) just so I can watch and maybe video other dogs as a learning experience. But yikes, I would feel terrible guilty going without my girls! 🙂

  9. Jen
    July 29, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    As there was no sound (or my Youtube was muted and I couldn’t tell), I wonder if it wasn’t the leash tightening that caused the snark, but rather the Husky was starting to grown. I’d wondered if he was piloerected, but it was hard to tell.

    • Mel
      July 30, 2013 at 7:03 AM

      You are correct Jen. There was no sound on the video. You are actually the first person to mention the leash. I also wonder if it wasn’t the leash that caused it. If you watch the video, the dog does not snark until after the leash is pulled. I also saw a lot of subtle lip licks, so I wonder if the dog wasn’t nervous and the leash pulling didn’t send him in a different direction than he would have gone if it had not been pulled?

  10. cascadiannomads
    July 29, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    That was hard to watch. If I had been on the other end of the leash of either of those dogs they never would have gotten that close! Dog body language is sometimes so subtle, often breed/type specific and occasionally very obvious. Yesterday I told a lady who came charging at my pack with her collie to say greet Huxley, my collie, that he “can be a little aggressive.” The whole thing happened so quickly but despite my protesting and backing away, our collies greeted (Huxley pressed his shoulder right into her collies shoulder; no sniffing or circling…) and she quipped “a collie? Aggressive? He doesn’t seem like it to me” her dog growled at Huxley, like most collies and other herding dogs/space issue dogs do. She grabbed her dog back and I was able to finish explaining that Huxley aggressively/boldly charges into other dogs personal spaces without and even his own siblings find him rude. She glared at me and walked away. Another gal passing leaned in to tell me her poodle is the same way. At least the upset dog in this situation was a collie with the breeds usual clear warning and a long fuse instead of me being unable to get Huxley away from a dog I knew he’d upset that didn’t warn us or give us time to avoid contact. Arg.

  11. July 29, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    Incredible video! Thank you so much – I learned a lot!

    • Mel
      July 30, 2013 at 7:00 AM

      You are so welcome Deb!

  12. July 30, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    Talking about the wag, I found it fascinating that the yellow dog’s wag was almost exclusively to the left (I’m sure you read the latest findings about the left vs right biased wags)

    • Mel
      July 30, 2013 at 6:57 AM

      I had read about the right and left wag before. I have also read that some dogs have a predisposition for wagging one way over another, like being left-handed. It’s very interesting to see the tail wag on the brown dog be mainly left. I had not caught that.

  13. August 1, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    We were shown this video whilst at uni, where I studied Animal Behaviour Science. It was good to see it again. The fact that it is in slow motion helps people like us so much more!

    One of my favourite things to do is read and try to understand dog body language, after all how will we know what they’re trying to tell us otherwise? Its fascinating!

    Katie 🙂

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