Use Your Woofs

Come on in, Dude!  The water's great!
Come on in, Dude! The water’s great!

Just because dogs don’t speak words, doesn’t mean they are any less communicative.  There is an imperceptible language that happens between animals of all species.  Dogs have it.  And humans have it, if we pay attention.  It is that something that tells us, “I think I like you.”

Barney can greet other dogs for half an hour at the park, and then take off after one particular pooch, chasing as if he is half his age.  It’s that thing.  Chemistry?  Somehow you are suddenly aware that you want to know more about that person, or play with them in the grass!

We humans love it when our dogs get along.  We encourage them and laugh when they bow down to invite another to play.  We love it when their tails wag and they give each other positive signs of companionship.  But just like humans, canine creatures need negative forms of communication as well.  They need to be able to say “Dude, you’re all up in my grill,” and “Don’t sniff me there,” or “Hey, I’m not that kind of girl.”

For the most part people have learned to suppress the urge to growl and bite.  We teach our children young to “use your words.”  We think of our pets as little humans, and want them to play nice as well.  Dogs use the only “words” they can, and sometimes it scares us.  However, being the refined creatures they are, they usually walk away from confrontation, and no more than a raised lip or a low growl is needed.

"Mind if I join in, you guys?"
“Mind if I join in, you guys?”

Many humans come to the “rescue” of a dog that doesn’t need rescuing.  Imagine if you had someone doing all your talking for you.  “Oh, she doesn’t like red.  Do you have one in blue?”  “He likes paper, not plastic.”  Sooner or later, you would probably forget how to talk, look at that person every time someone walked up to you, and hide behind them if someone even looked like they wanted to greet you.  You wouldn’t even be able to flip someone off in traffic by yourself!

Barney loves the little dogs, and is especially mild mannered with them.  But sometimes his size is a little too intimidating for them.  Like most dogs, Barney isn’t interested in hanging around where he isn’t wanted.  He will happily find another butt to sniff if the little guy suggests he should.

Yet some humans don’t even give their dog a chance to sniff Barney.  They pick up their pup the minute they see big black Barney round the corner.  Whether they are afraid their dog will snap at Barney, or that Barney will play rough with him, they are reinforcing messages to their dog that he is unable to “use his words.”

Please know that I do possess a little common sense.  I would never recommend humans stand around and encourage dogs to fight.  That isn’t civilized for any species.  There are also those who bring a dog to the park that does not socialize well with other dogs.  It is always important to be aware of your own dog’s triggers and cues.  In my experience, moving away from an escalating situation and simply continuing our walk is the antidote.

Very rarely, there are those instances when, by some humanly imperceptible signal, one dog says to another “Are you looking at me?”  “You want a piece of me?”  And when push comes to shove, a dog has to stick up for what he believes in.  Embarrassed people must step in, break it up, and apologize.  Later, I will ask, “Did that dog give you the stink-eye?”  After all, I can understand a thing like that.

DSCN0277
“Okay, little one. You can nap here, but I don’t have to like it.”

At the risk of inviting argument, I would suggest that we give the pups a chance to have a word on their own.  It may sound gruff or threatening to us, but to dogs it’s the only language they know, and it is actually a quite effective one that usually ends in a mutually peaceful agreement.

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15 thoughts on “Use Your Woofs

  1. I totally agree it’s best to let the k-9’s work it out. When I’m at parks or the lake, all too often I run into a owner who’s overly protective. And you can seldom talk ’em into letting the puppies parse it.

    1. Oh especially when we are on leashes! If I can tell a human wants me to stay back from their little dog, and all they want to do is meet and greet, it makes them look even more fierce, and the dog owner’s belief appears to be confirmed. “Vicious” circle, so to speak!

  2. I think people who have little dogs are afraid those pups will be swallowed whole. When we first got B who was a rescue she was afraid of everything especially the dark, but she has husky in her and she “needs” to run. The first time she tricked me and bolted out of the door I was a nervous wreck, but she came back. In the summer on weekends I started letting her run here and there and that crazy dog will look at you and smile as she blows past you. She secretly made friends with other dogs in the neighborhood and tramps around at night now. I can always tell where she is because she is a loud talker with her friends. I still worry but she is happy so whats a mom to do?

    1. Love that story! Reminds me of Barney years ago. Getting a fenced in yard and taking him to the off-leash park has calmed his running tendencies in a huge way. We used to joke that he knew how to open the screen door. We rigged up several different traps to keep him in. 🙂

  3. You are so right on. My little Yorkie-poo was a very insecure dog for several reasons. I might have been one of them. 😦 But I found when we went to the dog park with her cousin (my sister’s BBD who looked much like the one you are holding hands with, she was less fearful and socialized better. She would use her words to effectively back of dogs that got too aggressive no matter the size. She also understood every word I said. Loved your take on dogology

  4. Last weekend there was a dog show in the small mall we have here. When I say small it would take you all of ten minutes to walk every foot of it. We went inside but kept our puppy away from the show dogs, I was amazed by how many of the adult dogs spotted the puppy and came running to him, dragging their owners. Luckily for us the owners were very gracious and told us how much their adult canine companions loved puppies. The adult would lay down on the floor and let the puppy jump all over them. You could almost see a smile of contentment on the adult dog’s face. I also have neighbors who are glad to see a puppy visit to play with their dogs in the field.

    I’m sorry that you have to put up with people who fear the size of your dog. I’m sure Barney can hold his own and is smart enough not to do harm to another that isn’t threatening him.

    I do want to share a story from this weekend with you about the family puppy. My daughter-in-law woke Friday morning (her birthday) and was glad to see the children were still sleeping so she could have a little quiet time to herself. She took the Zakk outside, gave him his breakfast, then headed to the shower. She didn’t realize she hadn’t latched the door properly until Zakk jumped into the shower with her. Our canine companions show their love in all sorts of ways.

    1. Oh my! A puppy in one’s shower would be the best kind of birthday gift! Too funny . . .

      It is so good for the puppy to have all that socialization with the other dogs and humans. He will be a better dog for that.

      1. It wasn’t what she had in mind, she was hoping for a little quiet for herself for a change, instead she had a wet puppy to dry, but yes she’s still laughing about it.

        I think it’s great too for the puppy to have other dogs to socialize with. He’s very friendly, both around canine and human strangers, but always keeps a close eye on his family even when playing.

  5. Well said! I’ll be getting a large dog for the first time soon, and I’ll have to keep this in mind as it’s a tad intimidating when the larger dogs really get into it. (That said, my last dog was a tiny Maltese that seemed to think she was a doberman 😉 )

    1. My boxer/lab would have at it with a pit bull and I swear it looked like the two would tear each other limb from limb. But they had a ball! Both dogs have the potential for strong bites, but neither ever gave the other a reason to yelp. I think those little dogs are much more fierce than the big ones pound for pound. They have to be! Have fun with your new big dog!

  6. Ahhh nods. Generally speaking if dogs are socialized they learn how to play, say no, all the things you mentioned. There are those dogs however, that have dog aggression issues (they may have come from situations where they have not learnt doggie ettiquette) and most times their owners will know…though they should also not be at the dog parks if that is the case.

    Also, while I believe that having you dogs on leash if a good thing if you are walking them, it also appears that when on leash our puppers can be a bit more inclined to be grumpy around some other pups.

    Oh oh oh … I have a book that I have had for a while now…one of the best dog books I have ever had, titled, The Other End of the Leash. I loved it because it talked about dog behavior more from what a dog might be seeing.

    1. Great name for a book, and I feel like I have heard of it before. I will have to check that out. And yes, leashes actually make for more aggression. Imagine if you were uncertain how to react to someone, and someone else had you restrained so that if you had to react physically you couldn’t do it. It would make you aggressive. I’m always surprised when I see dogs being walked in the off-leash area with a leash. I just think they must have missed the concept . . .

      Thanks for the comment — I’m very pleased at the response this post is getting!

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