March 10, 2011

Excuse Me? What Did You Say?

Read: Dog Speak With Colleen Safford
Stiff Posture and Alertness Translated
Do you watch your dog? Sure you do, but how closely? Do you really know what their body language is telling you? Look closer at your pooches photographs. You might see a clue to what your dog is really thinking. GASP! You may be shocked to find out. {Tsk Tsk Miss Kodee!}
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If your familiar with my little photo hobby at Tumblr "Cavs Speak"  you know I love to imagine what thoughts are floating in my dogs heads. OK I confess, "Cavs Speak" are really the alter-egos of Kodee and Becky - blown up spoofs of my over active imagination. Kodee is not as tough or independent as I make her alter-ego. If fact, she can be a push over where Becky is concerned. Kodee is the patient, big sister never protesting and always letting Becky steal the balls and bones. As for Becky appearing Blond - well OK, she is! Becky, Mommy is kidding!! She is actually a very fast learner and very quick to want to please me. She gets it - she just on occassion, chooses to pretend she doesn't get it. YUP she is that smart.

Today, I ran across an article "Dog Speak by Colleen Safford" that listed the meaning to common body behaviour in dogs. For me, many were an eye opener. I started to make a connection between my dogs behaviours frozen in a photograph and what the situation was at the moment I took it. For instance, take last week's Wordless Wednesday photo of Kodee yawning. Looks like a happy, content, lazy dog sunning herself. Pure joy, right? Wrong. A yawn in a dog usually means they are feeling some tension or stress. Looking back at when that photo was taken it all makes sense!

Read: Dog Speak With Colleen Safford
Yawning Translated
Background: I am home most of the day with my dogs (I know lucky me and lucky them!). Understandably, Kodee is used to me being with her more often than not. She can get a little stressed when she realizes I am about to leave. I prepare her by saying "back soon". When I am off to get my daughter at work, I say "I'm getting Kaits, back soon" because it's a shorter trip than shopping. Why yes, my dog is that smart she knows the difference! I swear Kodee has the largest vocabulary of any dog I have owned.

Situation: As I opened the door to leave, I noticed how great they looked with the sun bathing them. So I ran back to the kitchen and grabbed my camera, laid down on the floor and started snapping the camera. Naturally Becky got up and moved away, so I instructed Kodee to "stay". I remember she became agitated and was wiggling about - most likely because she was confused. Here I had just told her I was going and now I was in my coat, lying on the floor, barking "stay" at her.

Reality: That yawn I learned was not a lazy sunning dog, but rather an agitated dog.

OK Colleen, you have peaked my interest now! So I decided to go through my FlickR account to see how many behaviours I can find and if I can recall what the "situation" was at the time it was taken.

Read: Dog Speak With Colleen Safford
The Nose Lick or Tongue Flick Translated
Background: It's a bright sunny day with fresh snow outside and the dogs were romping in the backyard. Look, here comes Mom with that darn camera!

Situation: Someone is expecting the dogs to sit on the freezing, wet, snow covered ground! I'm such a mean dog Mom. The camera had been stuck in their faces way too long. Cavaliers are patient but not stupid.

Reality: Their behaviour was easy to analyze in this photo; lip licking = anxious. Since starting my 365 [ish] Day Photo Challenge, my dogs practically start licking the minute I pull out the camera! In my defense, I must not be the only owner tormenting their dogs because Fido Friendly Magazine has a monthly contest titled Show Us Your Tongues (we entered Becky, *sigh* she didn't win a prize).

Read: Dog Speak With Colleen Safford
Face Licking Translated
Background: Usually I am brave and launch out the door in cold, snow, heat, rain; all sorts of weather conditions to walk the dogs. This year, Mother Nature is pushing my buttons - it's been really cold with tons of snow so I have been housebound a lot of the time. To keep the dogs happy we have been playing fetch, focusing on training, and finding new toys to play with.
By the way, have you ever given your dogs an empty, litre pop bottle to play with on a slippery kitchen floor? Mine can be amused for ages this way - it's even more fun on an icy patio.
Situation: Kodee takes playing fetch seriously! It's her all time favourite activity. Becky is possessive of her ball - she runs behind Kodee holding hers. Rarely will she give it up for us to throw. Looks like Kodee and Becky are enjoying a fun game of fetch!

Reality: Wrong! Things were tense right before I snapped this photo. Becky can also be pushy and occasionally when I throw Kodee's ball, Becky scoots past her (she is way faster), drops her ball and snatches up Kodee's. So I throw Becky's ball to Kodee instead. I did say Kodee is patient with little sis. After about the 10th time that day, Kodee had enough of Becky getting in her way and finally gave her a warning growl. This photo is Becky kissing up (literally) saying "I'm sorry, forgive me, I won't do it again". Yeah right Becky - till tomorrow!

Read: Dog Speak With Colleen Safford
Whale Eye Translated
Background: Play date! We often have other Cavaliers over to our house to play. For the most part dogs and humans have a blast!

Situation: My dogs love socializing but at times they can become overwhelmed if too many dogs invade their space or if the visit turns into a long one (we once had over 12 Cavaliers for a BBQ!).

Reality: The day this photo was taken, 6 Cavaliers were in my kitchen. One was a newly rescued Cavalier that was a little unsure of all these new people and dogs in her life. Over all she did really well visiting our house! However, I think Becky picked up on her tension and since Becky was just 1 year old, she herself was a little unsure. You can see Becky's stress from her whale eyes (showing whites of eyes in the corners) and in her curved whiskers. After seeing her reaction we put the dogs outside for a good, supervised play till everyone relaxed. They came back inside only wanting to find their own corner to snooze in.

Have a look through the articles and then your own photos. Did you pick up any behaviours you missed the first time?


DawgBlogger said...

Glad you brought this to my attention. I am fascinated by trying to better understand dog language. I think I know it reasonably well for most part, but always love to learn more. I think DogSpeak is a great resource.

Debbie said...

Very timely - I just ordered a book on canine body language. I knew about the stress yawning (although sometimes I think a yawn is just a yawn). Rylie is an obsessive face licker - if he can't lick mine he moves on to Max until Max gets annoyed and either moves or they start snarking at each other. Like Kodee, Max has the patience of a saint. Rylie has been known to lick Max's teeth when he's chewing on an antler. Max eventually leaves and Rylie gets the prize.

Tweedles -- that's me said...

This is very interesting...
i heard this about horses...

Soggibottom said...

I'm going to read the rest, but had to make a ha ha ha ha ha ha comment first. Why didn't I think of that :-) WELL DONE YOUR RIGHT... SIT DOES HAPPEN.... :-) :-) ha ha fallen off my chair ! xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Pup Fan said...

Really interesting post!

Kathy @Your Holistic Dog said...

Yes, they're called "calming signals." Dogs use them to communicate their feelings to other dogs (and to people as well). Next time you're at a dog park, watch for the yawning, tongue flicking, turning away, and circling in an arc. Dogs may exhibit any of these when first meeting a new dog.

Beyond the Dog Dish said...

@Kathy Thanks! Your article is also very helpful. Everyone have a peek here:

Kathy @Your Holistic Dog said...

Thanks! Love your cavies! So beautiful. A lovely ruby Cavalier boy named Teko is my partner in crime. You've inspired me to get his blog going too (in addition to Your Holistic Dog). Cheers, Kathy

Lori @ According to Gus said...

Yawning and lip smacking are two anxious behaviors Gus displays often. Very interesting post!

The lip smacking may be an anxious behavior, but it sure looks cute. :)

jen said...

I have heard this about yawning before! It makes sense and Leroy does it a lot!
Wonderful post.

NY Walk & Train said...

Wowee! This made my day! As the columnist of DogSpeak, it thrills me to see that you went thru such great lengths to grab examples in your own dogs! Knowing that at least one person learned something makes me of so happy! Warm wags to you and your cuties!

snoopy@snoopysdogblog said...

Great post! As an expert on dog communication (being a dog, of course! :) I just wanted to tell you that the first pic with the toilet roll is saying "I want to make you smile!"

Smiles and Wags from Snoopy :)

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Loving life with family and friends while exploring my passions; writing and photography. All with my two, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in tow on day-trips along the Greater Toronto Area waterfront trails and local communities.

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