Photographs by Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Dusty Higgins
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette talking dog illustration.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Our world is full of dog lovers. For so many, dogs are much more than just pets. They are companions and partners; they are our friends. We talk to them as if they understand our language, we train them to behave properly in our human world. But when do we learn to listen?
To truly understand and communicate with a dog, one must learn to observe and read its body language. Pet owners certainly don't need to be experts, but with a little understanding of the basics, the relationship between dog and human can be greatly enhanced.
It's hard to watch a dog owner "loving" on her dog in a way that the dog can barely tolerate, much less enjoy. Dogs don't appreciate many of our human expressions of affection, and as dog owners, care should be taken to offer our dogs affection in a manner that is truly enjoyed.
How can you tell if your dog is enjoying what you are offering in terms of attention and affection? Voluntarily moving or remaining close to you. Weight shifted toward you. A loose, relaxed body. A dog that isn't enjoying what you are offering will often try to disengage by pulling away from you, avoiding eye contact and turning its back on you. Once the contact between you has ended, the dog will often shake off.
To "read" what he is saying, it is imperative that your dog have freedom of movement to "speak." Dogs don't like to be hugged, which equals restraint. Some dogs will attempt to get out from under a well-intentioned but uncomfortable hugging embrace, while others will simply resign themselves to it, but dogs don't like hugging -- avoid it.
Not every dog enjoys the same thing, but a good starting point when giving him physical affection is to try scratching under the chin, the chest or along the back. Dogs don't appreciate a hand on top of the head -- even your own -- so be respectful and avoid that area. Many dogs enjoy a methodical and slow ear rub; use your thumb on the inside of the ear and slowly rub toward the tip. Deep, slow breathing and squinty dog eyes in this context equals pure satisfaction.
Are you able to engage your dog in play? Fetch and tug are games that many dogs enjoy, but can you play with your dog without props? This can be a challenge, to rely on your body language to engage your dog. Try being silly -- get on the floor and do an exaggerated play-bow, like dogs do with one another when initiating play. Quickly and lightly tap a paw, and then retreat, with eyes wide. Exaggerate your movements. Your dog may be puzzled at first, but keep trying. With some practice you will likely find some new ways to interact with your dog that is enjoyable for both of you. And keep this in mind: numerous studies have shown that dogs enjoy it when we laugh.
The more we understand one another, and the more affection we give as well as receive, the stronger the bond.
Contact Lisa Moore in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, Calif. 95352.
Family on 09/13/2017
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