Home > Dog Behavior, Dog Training, Maggie, Pet Videos > Videotaping yourself interacting with your dog offers new insights

Videotaping yourself interacting with your dog offers new insights

September 10, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

As much as I know about dog body language, I am constantly amazed at how much I miss in my own dogs’ behaviors when I am interacting with them.  I am so focused on seeing the expected behavior I am requesting that sometimes I completely miss what they are telling me about how they are feeling about it. Ears back, ears forward, tight mouth, raised paw, lip licks… It all happens so fast that it can be easy to miss. If I am not totally focused on what I am really seeing, I completely miss it.

That could not have been more clearly obvious than during a recent session I spent working with Maggie. Despite being able to “watch me” and hand target when asked, Maggie is still pretty uncomfortable with doing it, even when she chooses to do it on her own. I have known this for some time and have tried to give her the choice in how much she wants to participate. But it wasn’t until I snapped some photos as I was working with her that I realized just how pressure sensitive she was and how much I had been missing.

Take a look at some of the pictures I took one evening while working with Maggie. What do you see? 

Lip lick and ears back and leaning back. Nervous Maggie. She was a little tentative with hand targeting tonight, so we did a lot of "watch mes."

I think I prefer another "watch me" thank you.

Maggie gets this close for chicken. #sheltie #puppymilldog

Eating from my hand. #puppymilldog #sheltie

If you said you saw Maggie lip-licking, displaying her ears way back on her head, looking away, and leaning away from me in some of these photos, you would be correct. She is ultra sensitive to body pressure. It makes her nervous to be this close to me. I need to back it up a bit and give her a little space. (As my friend Nancy from Gooddogz dog training said, a target stick, like a wooden spoon with peanut butter on the end of it, might work better for Maggie right now.)

But, I never would have seen this myself if not for the photos. Why? Because I was too busy looking for what I wanted her to do in response to what I said, instead of looking at her actual response (i.e., body language) to what I was asking of her. It’s a good reminder to me, and to anyone else who works with their dog, that videotaping my interactions with my dog can reveal so much more than what I see with my eyes. It might be uncomfortable, and maybe even a little embarrassing to videotape ones self working with their dog, but the information gained is so worth it. I will be changing how I work with Maggie moving forward by taking it down a step to be even less pressure-oriented than it was already.

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My experience with Maggie brought to mind another video I saw last year in which the behavior of the dog described by the trainer did not match what the dog was actually conveying in the video. I don’t share this to pick on the trainer, who sounds like a knowledgeable woman, but merely to point out what we can miss when we are so focused on what we expect to see and not what is really being displayed.

Take a look and tell me what you see. I’ll share my analysis of the video and the dog’s behavior next week.

 

Want to learn more about pressure sensitivity in dogs? Watch this video from Eileen and Dogs.

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  1. September 11, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Great observations here. It’s amazing what you can actually “see” when you stop and really look. Thank you for reminding me to do more of that. 😉

  2. September 11, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    We learn a lot about our nose work through videos. It is a great way to learn!

  3. Maggie
    September 13, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    Yes!! I had never done that until a trainer suggested that Cooper wasn’t listening to me because I was confusing him. I taped a training session and realized that every time I asked him for a sit, I took a micro-step forward. I had no idea I was doing it. So, when I asked for a sit while I was still or sitting, he didn’t observe the little step so got confused. Total lightbulb moment for me!

    • Mel
      September 13, 2014 at 9:20 PM

      It’s amazing what we miss isn’t it Maggie? I have videotaped myself and seen so many things I do that I don’t realize I am doing. No wonder my poor dogs are confused!

  1. September 22, 2014 at 10:13 PM

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