Dog Training/Female dog fights
QUESTION: Hello, I have two female dogs one 7yrs old (jack russell terrier/ pointer mix) and the other 5 (German Shepard beagle mix) we adopted both of them as puppies from the local humane society.
Some background on the dogs:
The 7yr old dog is a hyper dog who behaves well with humans but not as great with other dogs. She often barks on walks at other dogs and is pretty territorial and protective. She often has her hair on her back stand up while sniffing or is being sniffed by the other dog.
The 5yr old is a VERY scared and HIGH anxiety dog. She feels very protected around myself and close family but does not like strangers and especially men. When in or around my home she barks at a person inside the house continually that she is not familiar with. Wen we are outside her "territory" she stays close by my side and will lock up and avoid contact with other people or dogs. She seems to be the aggressor of the fights. If something scares her, for example me dropping something by accident, she almost immediately looks to the other dog to blame. She is very scared to be left alone, for example at the vet or groomer or while I'm out with the other dog.
All of the fights that have happened have been around or near me in different settings. We have never come home to an injured dog and they seem to play well together when people are not around. They also have separation anxiety when they are apart from each other. For example if I walk one at a time or one goes to the vet - even if they are locked in different parts of the house. The only thing they feel comfortable BEING without the other is eating their dinner in different parts of the house.
After about 2 years of living together they started getting in serious fights that had to be broken up by myself and family. After training lessons for the both of them and a lot of research eventually the problem seemed to stop when my older dog seemed to give up dominance (or just got sick of fighting). There were no fights that happened for over a year until recently.
After a recent trip for a teeth cleaning for my younger dog we got home and my other dog came to greet her and was sniffing her. Before I knew it a fight broke out. Luckily it was broken up before any harm was caused to either dog. We thought the problem was just due to anxiety of being away from one another and was an isolated event. Unfortunately tonight while everyone was relaxing my youngest dog (and more aggressive dog) wanted the bed the other was laying in. She did not want to give up her bed so she growled. At that point the younger dog attacked the older one. (She is a much stronger dog and always escapes injury - the elder dog usually gets cut by her ear and eye by the time the fight is broken up).
I am not sure why these fights have started up again recently. I am worried about the safety of my older dog during these events. It seems anytime the younger dog gets irritated by the hyper nature of my older dog or feels threatened a fight will break out or is too close to breaking out for comfort. We removed the bed after this latest fight and try very hard to avoid any trigger points that we are aware of. If you have any suggestions on how to help correct this problem it would be GREATLY appreciated.
ANSWER: Hello Paige:
Overall, this would indicate that their is no Human Pack Leader, that the dogs have taken that role dependant on the situation and or are stuggling to settle whom it will be.
The return from the Vet's could have been triggered by scent (from Vet's office), and possible groggyness, pain in dog from treatment.
Scent plays a huge role in behaviour, both dogs have breeds known for scenting ability in them, so this would increase their reactions to scent.
I am attaching a few documents/articles, I have written on the subjects of Pack, Communication, please read through them and if you have any other question please feel free to contact me again.
Power Point Presentation
Defining The Term PACK
• Here is where there is a huge divide between Dog Trainers.
• Those that adhere to the The Pack Theory and those that do not.
• But which Pack Theory?
• The old or new
• Alpha or Alpha-Beta-Omega structure
Pack – Alpha
• This Pack Dominance theory came from studying forced Packs. Wolves in captivity.
• We now know that Natural Forming packs follow a Alpha-Beta-Omega structure
• Domestic dogs, like their wild wolf counterparts, also interact in complex hierarchical ways.
Dog or Wolf
• Dog behavior refers to the collection of behaviors by the domestic dog, and is believed to be influenced by genetic, social, situational and environmental causes.
• The domestic dog is a subspecies of the grey wolf, and shares many of its behavioral characteristics.
Although there are important and distinct differences between dogs and wolves.
Wolf – V – Dog
• Research in packs formed in the wild indicates that wolves form a family group, including a breeding pair and their offspring.
• In these familial packs, the terms "dominance," and "submission" are less useful than "parent," and "offspring," and bring with them a number of misconceptions.
• While the majority of research to date indicates that domestic dogs conform to a hierarchy around an Alpha-Beta-Omega structure, like their wild wolf counterparts.
Pack – v – Family
• Packs are family units, and the "alpha" of a pack does not change through struggles for dominance. Rather, it argues that the family unit serves to raise the young, which then disperse to pair up with other dispersed wolves to form a breeding pair, and a pack of their own. This model undermines the popular conception of dominance in wolf social behavior.
• I use the word Pack and the term Pack Leader.
• I could say Family and Dad or Mum or Mum & Dad or The Boss
• I use the term Leadership
• I do not mean Dominance when I say that, I mean Leadership
• What leadership means in relation to our interaction with our dogs is to provide direction, to show and teach them what they are allowed to do, guide them towards what they can and may do instead of engaging in nuisance-type behaviours such as jumping up, biting on hands, pulling on the lead, barking, or barging through doorways.
• And 'do' is an important word here - it's not enough to say 'I want my dog to stop barking' or 'I want my dog to not jump up' or 'not pull on the lead' - leadership is about teaching them what we want them to do instead, not what we want them not to do.
• Leadership requires concerted and constructive effort on our part, and involves us prompting and coordinating friendly social interaction, activities and behaviours that bring beneficial results both to us as leaders and to our dogs as followers. It's about quality of life and enriching the bond that we have with our dogs.
Leadership requires us to communicate clearly and compassionately with our dogs, to be patient and tolerant while our dogs are learning to follow and trust our direction, and above all, to remember that we are on the same team as our dogs – always.
• Every species is unique in their behavior. That is how we tell them apart even if their anatomy is closely related.
• As such, humans and chimps are clearly different species, with a common ancestor, but only some common, primate behaviors.
• The same is true for dogs and wolves. There are some common behaviours.
Evolution of the Dog
• Behavioral variations happen when animals adjust to different environmental demands.
• Adapting to one’s environment, is evolutionary success.
• The big divergence regarding wolves and dogs is that dogs live on human waste, and non-captive wolves hunt and kill prey.
The Human Bond
• Food seeking is a primal drive, and that makes that difference a profound one, because it means that wolves depend on one another for survival, and dogs don’t.
• They depend on humans.
• They evolved from Wolves into the Dog.
• A mutually beneficial result for both Dog and Human
Pack Leader/Mum or Dad
• Why does it matter to us if dogs are natural pack animals or not? Because it impacts their behavior and our life with them, that’s why.
• Does that mean that our canine companion needs a pack leader? Well, she certainly needs someone who explains how her world works; how she can belong, stay safe and access resources. How she can thrive through cooperation. And that someone has to be the human. The onus is on you, but an existing canine co-dweller who knows the ropes can certainly function as a great helper.
Communicating with Dogs
How do dogs communicate?
Dogs communicate by Scent, Body Language and Sound in that order. We Humans communicate by Sound, Body Language and well as for scent, we know Mum’s cooking Beef Stew, our dogs know that it’s a pot of Beef, Water, salt, garlic, potatoes, carrots, onions etc. Their scenting abilities far out ways ours, but we need to know and understand that scent is their first and foremost method of communication.
For example dog trainers and professional handlers have known for years that whatever you are feeling goes down the leash to your dog. Well now science has now confirmed that, in that our pheromones Scent changes dependant on our moods. Science can not yet tell the level of that mood but agrees that our dogs can smell the slightest change in the level of our moods. For example your dog knows from across the room if that lottery ticket you are looking at is for $50, $500, or $5,000 or if you just hit the jackpot and won millions, without a sound or movement, you dog will realise that your level of joy has increased, just by the change in your pheromones i.e. scent.
So scent is an important part in working with dogs. Thus the use of treats for training, the scent of the treat gains your dogs attention, the more they like the scent, the more focused they will be on what you are trying to get them to do. For example a small piece of Rollover, gets their attention, but something else around them is happening and the scent of the Rollover is not enough to focus them on you, so you bring out their next level of favourite treat let’s say it’s cheese, now that distraction is not strong enough to distract them from you as you now have cheese a scent they know and like more than Rollover.
A dog barks furiously at the window, no amount of shouting seems to get through to him, yet you wave a piece of cheese in front of his nose and he immediately turns towards you. So scent is a major component of working with dogs.
Your scent is crucial, i.e. your mood. If you are anxious, nervous, angry your dog may not know why, but knows something is wrong at that moment and reacts to that. A classic example of that is a dog that reacts at the sight of another dog on the walk. Your dog would have smelt that dogs approach before you saw him, but he’s reacting at the sight of it, because you just saw it and thought “Oh No he’s going to act up again here comes another dog”, your scent changed, your dog reacted. OR You’ve entered a dog competition, Agility, Confirmation etc, you felt fine happy confident until it’s your turn in the ring, you get nervous or anxious and your previously calm contented dog starts to act-up, because your scent just changed.
Now some dogs use their nose more, because of breed traits or are just proficient using their nose, some dogs do loose this main ability, but they all had it working full out when born, because that’s the only way for them to find their mother’s teat and feed. All dogs are born Blind and Deaf, their ears and eyes do not start to open until about 3 weeks. So their first view of their new world is by scent. We humans are born with full hearing and our eyes though open, do not focus well as yet. So here lies the main difference in how we as Humans and Dogs communicate.
What’s Body Language
Body language includes how we stand, use of hand signals, footwork and facial expressions.
Too be effective you need to know about dog’s body language, what those different stances mean, how the ears are positioned, what the tail is doing. A common misconception is a dog that is wagging his tail is happy, this is not always so. Dogs move their tails in different patterns, often hard for us as humans to see, but other dogs of the same breed easily recognise these differences. Dogs of other breeds notice common threads, but may confuse a tail signal, as it’s not familiar to them. I.E. Dogs with cropped tails, dogs with long fur on their tails etc, can affect the viewing of the message the tail is giving. The same goes for ears, so dogs that are well socialized with different breeds as puppies learn that tail and ear signals can give mixed messages, and thus would rely on Scent and the rest of the body stance and even the use of sound to fully interpret the message being given.
With so many different breeds, thus so many different tail and ear shapes and sizes, dogs will rely on what the rest of the body is doing, to confirm what the body language means.
So what are the basics that dogs use that we can interpret?
Standing tall and square, making the body appear as big as it can be, is a way of declaring you are Large and In Charge, very confident, self assured.
Making yourself as small as possible, means you are unsure, afraid, and not confident.
Our dogs see us moving around all day, and thus know that confident stance and that unsure stance, our scent at these times confirms their interoperation of these positions.
What about hand signals and footwork
Well, this is part and parcel or an adjustment to the reading of ears and tails and also comes down to the selective breeding we did down from the original wolves to the many breeds we have today. We selectively breed those that watched us all of us, not just our overall body language but all those other appendages we have. A recent study also proved that Dogs are the only species to recognise how we use our eyes, even our closest genetic cousin the great apes cannot make the association that if our eyes are closed we cannot see, but dogs can and do, notice and connect this.
The other part that ties in with hand signals and foot work is to do with sound, as our sound can be inconsistent and the moving of a hand/arm/foot/leg is more consistent.
So what is sound all about?
First and foremost is for you to acknowledge that dogs do not learn to speak or understand any human language what so ever. They are not sitting because you said did, they are sitting because when you made that sound and they put their bum on the floor you rewarded the behaviour. This statement also lets you know why your dog sometimes does not sit on command, he/she has yet to learn that the sound you just made also means Sit, and here is where hand signals come into play, they recognise the hand signal but not the sound, and therefore rely on the body language (hand signal) to interoperate the sound. A reason why, dogs respond to hand signals and footwork, better than voice commands. As your voice, sound, tone may change when saying Sit, your hand signal remains the same.
So here are the basics on sound; dogs have sounds that indicate a mood or need. The Bark, The Growl, The Whine.
So we need to understand that our sound i.e. tone needs to match what we are communicating by scent and body language.
The Growl when issued by a dog is a warning or correction sound tone it is Low, Deep and quiet, so when you want your dog to know you do not approve and or unhappy or angry your tone needs to be Low, Deep and quiet from your normal everyday tone.
The Deep Bark a warning or alerting tone.
The High Pitched Bark means excitement or an invitation to play and/or overall happiness.
I am sure you have all noticed these different types of sounds coming from dogs, even the smallest dog can issue a low deep tone of warning for his/her size. In larger breeds is it more distinct change in tone between happy let’s play bark or back away warning bark.
So we as humans need to match our tone to our message. A very common mistake we make and one that is natural for us as humans to do, is raise our voices when angry, shout or yell, what you need to understand in this case that as Humans when we do this we actually go up an octave from our normal speaking tone and our dogs excellent hearing picks this up.
A classic example is – You find your dog shredding the couch – You get angry (scent), you bend towards the dog (unsure, or even play invitation), You way a finger or shake a fist (rapid irregular movement invitation to play), you shout or yell (you go up an octave from normal tone – Praise or Play tone).
Now if you communicated by scent, body language and sound, what you would smell is anger, what you see and here is lets play, confusing isn’t it. And that’s the look your dogs gives you, not one of guilt but one of appeasement, Calm down your not making sense are you mad or do you want to play.
When you match your sound and body language to your scent, your dog can understand what you are trying to communicate with him/her.
Aggression & Some Reasons Behind It
Whether we like it or not, we need to recognize that the wide range of behaviors labeled as aggression are communications from the dog to us. Dogs do not snap, snarl, growl, or bite without reason, and those reasons can range from feeling afraid to being confidently challenging. If you are able to recognize early signs of dog feeling uneasy or pressured in some way (whether you intended that response or not!), you can avoid pushing dog into feeling the need for more dramatic or more dangerous aggressive behavior. Many of the dogs presented to me as aggressive are often quite fair about offering warning signs, but sadly, people have not been able to accurately read the signals the dog is sending. How frustrating that must be for the dog, who may then feel the need to escalate his own behavior in order to make his message clear!
Here are some typical clues that a dog is feeling pressured, and shifting from relaxed to another state of mind:
Shifts in breathing - Typically, a dog who is feeling uncertain or threatened or is annoyed exhibits changes in the way he breathes. The breathing slows, becomes very shallow or is actually held (no breaths!). Watch rib cage or flank area ? a normal relaxed dog is visibly breathing! A dog who closes his mouth, even briefly, may be offering a warning. Breathing may be monitored by visual observation, by hearing the shifts, and also by noting changes in the dog's breathing through your hands (helpful when you are handling a dog up close and may not be able to easily visually observe such changes).
Changes in whiskers - Learn to recognize what's normal for your dog in terms of how he holds his whiskers when relaxed. A stressed dog (fearful, confused, overwhelmed) often folds the whiskers back against the muzzle. A dog who is angry or challenging may have whiskers brought forward.
Changes in head & eye movements - A relaxed, comfortable dog has slow, easy movements of the head and eyes. The more rapid the movements you observe in eyes and head, the more panicky or fearful the dog is becoming, though this may rapidly escalate to a complete freeze of all movements but with the head and eyes turned slightly or markedly away from what concerns the dog. On the other end of the scale, the dog who becomes very still and stares at something with ears up and fixed (think "locked on target") is heading up the scale towards possible aggression or predatory behavior, with the whole body held quite still but oriented towards the target. Less dramatic but important shifts in head & eyes: dog looks away or turns head away from person or other dog; this dog is actively avoiding confrontation.
Freezing - An overwhelmed dog may literally freeze - no movement, all body posture pulled back and down and/or away from threat. The danger here is that dogs in freeze may explode into fight or flight if pushed further. Do not mistake a frozen dog for one who is gladly accepting whatever is happening - a common mistake that leads to "he just exploded with no warning." A dog who is accepting of whatever is happening continues to have normal movement of the body, head & eyes; a dog who is simply enduring an unwelcome or unpleasant event often freezes when he cannot escape, and thus the internal pressure continues to build as evidenced by the freeze. Should that internal pressure reach an intolerable level, the dog may explode in some dramatic behaviors.
Changes in shape and expression of eyes - On the fearful/anxious end of the spectrum, the dog will look away from or glance sideways at the source of his problems, and the pupils may dilate considerably if the dog is really stressed. This change is due to shifts internally that result from the cascade of stress hormones (the ones that prepare a dog for flight/fight). Dogs are incredibly expressive in their eyes and facial muscles - attention to subtle changes here will pay off for anyone trying to understand the dog.
Changes in lips - Get a feel for how the dog normally looks when relaxed, particularly how he holds his mouth and lips. Are the lips held tightly? drawn back? panting? drawn forward? Tension around the lips and muzzle indicate a problem. The more fearful/anxious the dog is, the more drawn back the lips become. When a dog is becoming annoyed or angry, the lips may tighten and the corners are drawn forward; you may even see an "rumpling" of the whisker bed, giving the dog's muzzle a "lumpy" look which precedes an actual snarl.
Increase in muscular tension - As the dog's emotional state shifts, so will the overall tension in his body. Do not mistake stillness for "okay"! Sometimes, a dramatic shift can be seen in the dog's feet - look for clenching of toes, a sign I often see as the dog's fear/anxiety increases. Dogs who are confident & challenging and getting very annoyed or angry move "up" on their toes, whereas fearful dogs often clench or spread their toes preparatory to moving away (if they can). Of course, pay close attention to the degree of muscular tension throughout the dog's body.
Overall shifts in body posture - Consider the overall "geometry" of the dog's body posture. Calm and relaxed results in the dog being balanced, neither looking drawn forward nor drawn down and away. Fear/anxiety based response: dog backs up, turns obliquely away from the problem, may even curve his body dramatically away while holding still. This dog is trying to avoid confrontation or hoping to escape from the situation. Aroused/confident/challenging: dog comes forward, shifts to sit from down or stand from sit, all body posture aimed at person or other dog. Friendly gesture - the dog may approach with decided curves in his body, neck and tail, even a lot of wiggles, and may offer his side, often accompanied by a lot of curves through the body, neck and tail.
DETERMINING THE CAUSE
There are many different causes for the range of behaviors we may label as aggressive: barking, growling, snarling, lunging, snapping, biting. However, all these behaviors are not the same, and depending on the cause, need to be handled in specific ways. Simply labeling a dog's behavior as aggressive is not informative, nor does it help you understand what may be going on in the dog's mind.
When assessing any dog, be very specific about the behaviors you observe, as well as the precise body posture and the situation in which the behavior was presented. Precisely how, when, where and in what context the dog offers these behaviors needs to be examined in order to understand the dog.
As a rule, do not use corrections or punishment to handle behavior you consider aggressive. In most cases, treating any behavior you consider aggressive may result in the dog becoming more aggressive and possibly pushing him to escalating his own behavior and perhaps even biting. Remember - the dog has a reason for acting as he does, whether you understand it or not. Best rule of thumb: "Do not treat aggression with aggression of your own."
When in doubt, ask others what they observed in the dog. Build a careful picture: When this was happening, the handler did X, and then the dog did Y. Don't make assumptions or use non-specific language like "he freaked out". Be specific. For example, does "freaked out" mean the dog bolted away, crashed into the wall and only then lunged forward with loud barks? Or that the dog's pupils dilated dramatically, with ears laid back tight and then he lunged forward with a snap?
If you are unsure as to what caused the dog's response, give the dog the benefit of the doubt and assume that the technique, equipment or handler created the problem. Above all, don't take aggression personally! but do take it seriously as an important communication from the dog.
Here's some typical causes for behavior that may be labeled as aggressive:
Pain Induced Response Typical symptoms: dog comes up lead when corrected using the lead or collar; may just snarl or growl or actually snap/bite handler. May also just yelp or scream. Possible causes: tonsillitis (common in young dogs; suggest vet check up ASAP; correction too harsh (have owner moderate signal if corrections must be used, and do consider there are many ways to train that do NOT require corrections!); collar too much physical stimulus for dog (try milder collar such as martingale type or buckle); may have damage to or soreness in neck (switch to no-pull harness)
Pain in Specific Area Typical symptoms: Dog may actively resist or growl when handler tries to force/correct or even gently model dog into position. May be seen if handler asks for quicker sit, tries to roll dog over on one hip for long down, etc. Typically seen when dog is sore in back, through hips, has panosteitis (will especially resent having long bones of the legs grabbed/handled), joint pain.
Watch dog moving and specifically check how the dog sits - in a dog who is comfortable in his body, the sit should be quick, clean with no careful "adjusting" prior to or during the sit, and feet should be neatly tucked under dog and square. ANY deviation from this points to possible problem that may be causing dog discomfort.
Suggest all dogs have x-rays of hips & knees if they are exhibiting signs of physical
discomfort. Check also for tick borne diseases, which can leave dogs with very ouchy joints. May also suggest veterinary chiropractic. Know common breed problems and be alert to them (hip/elbow dysplasia, OCD, patella problems, etc).
Redirected Aggression Typical symptoms: Redirected aggression is seen in situations where dog is fixated on another dog/animal, object or person, highly aroused and frustrated because they can't get to them. Any interference by handler (including attempts to attract dog's attention but especially leash corrections or hands-on corrections such as collar grabs, scruff shakes, muzzle grabs or slaps) may result in the dog re-directing his frustration onto handler. The dog may also redirect the aggression onto any other dog, person or animal in his immediate vicinity. Ideally, prevent situation which triggers this! The dog may be quite violent in redirected aggression. Damage control - gain dog's voluntary cooperation in any way possible; do not use force to remove dog.
Rudeness by Other Dogs Typical symptoms: dog noisily warns or actually bites other dog who has gotten into his space. Key point: Dog was minding his own business and under control at owner's side or where left, did NOT leave handler or place left to attack other dog. Watch for invasion of space by another dog, even one that is friendly; retrievers & other "non-aggressive" breeds often at fault due to their handler's view of their dog as friendly and harmless. Most likely to trigger response in dogs with bigger personal space (working breeds, terriers).
Instruct all handlers on rude/polite dog behavior which includes not allowing eye contact even across the room. Keep dog who caused the incident on long line and under instructor supervision when working on recalls or long distance stays. Keep the dog who responded to the rudeness well protected by barriers or people between him and the rude dog. All handlers have an obligation to protect other dogs from their own dog's "friendliness!" Instruct handlers of both dogs involved how to avoid problems in the future. If necessary, assign "red bandanas" to dogs needing extra space - this serves as a warning to other handlers that the Red Bandana dog should be given room and to not let their dog, however friendly, interact without specific initiation by the Red Bandana dog's handler.
Lack of handler leadership Typical symptoms: Dog may actively resist being forced or even gently modeled into position by handler (i.e. tucked into sit or down) by growling, snapping, biting, or by wrestling, pushing handler away with feet, mouthing handler's arms & hands. The dog is saying that handler has not earned
the right to handle him in such ways. Do NOT force the issue but find reasonable
compromise in class situation, and if at home, back off and find a way to gain voluntary submission (use of lure?) to avoid conflicts. Emphasize work on controlling resources at home to gain leadership & respect.
Overstimulation Typical symptoms: The excessive stimulation may come from the collar or lead, the handler, corrections, the overall environment, other dogs or animals. Solution: Remove dog to a "cool down zone" that offers a visual barrier and/or much more distance from other dogs/animals; reduce sensory input to the dog with quieter handling, less or no corrections, switch equipment to something milder, or change between equipment as necessary in any given situation (i.e., may need prong collar or slip when in motion but work better on slip or buckle in quieter exercises)
Many mouthy dogs respond to overstimulation by grabbing at the handler's arms, hands, legs, feet, clothing, lead, etc. This is often not aggression but a
response to too much stimuli; attempts to use force or corrections only pour fuel on
the fire. Work quietly and reward good behavior - careful not to use physical praise,
big/fast hand movements or excited voice.
Fear based - Typical symptoms: Usually seen when approached by other dogs or people. May be afraid of handler; if so, watch handler's technique - may be too harsh. Watch for grabbing of joints, pushing down on hips or back instead of tucking, holding onto legs, pulling, pushing, etc. (This could end up with the dog both afraid and in pain.) Encourage & show handler how to use softer approach. May need to switch to lure/reward only.
If afraid of other dogs, respect this, put red bandana on to remind other students. See if you can find well behaved, well socialized dog who will lay quietly in a down and
allow fearful dog to approach and sniff from behind. If afraid of people, use Dunbar's
Treat/Retreat with all students participating to build confidence (can practice while
instructor holds each student's dog; doubles as practice for CGC.)
Learn to identify potential problems which may result in aggressive behavior:
Watch for dogs with no appropriate sense of personal space & handlers who allow their dogs to invade others' space
Watch dogs who need extra room & space (may look unsure, frightened of other dogs approaching or get stiff, bark, growl) ? offer them a red bandana to buy them the space they need
Eye contact to or from other dogs - usually accompanied by body postures (head up, tail up, stillness). This may also be true in dogs who react to eye contact from people, though they may also exhibit fearful, avoiding behaviors.
Sometimes, aggression follows close on the heels of resistance, especially when handlers ignore the importance of resistance as meaningful information. Resistance or refusal to cooperate are important communications from dog which say he is:
Confused or doesn't understand - back up to previous level, re-evaluate technique
Feeling afraid or anxious or simply unsure - work to alleviate fear & build confidence
Is bored (often seen with repetition of exercise dog does not find enjoyable) - STOP
Isn't motivated (examine level of motivation) - find suitable motivation (paycheck)
Is not physically able to do as asked - evaluate dog as athlete, work with the individual dog's limitations, do not ask for more!
Does not respect the handler sufficiently to do what he's being asked to do in that particular situation
Possible causes for resistance:
Handler induced - watch the handler for changes in breathing, muscular tension, facial expression, movement. The dog will notice and respond to all of these!
Equipment - may be giving signals to dog that are not clear or are too clear & over stimulating or simply too harsh
Method - any technique which uses application of force may elicit reflexive resistance
from the dog. Particularly true with pull or jerk on collar - if you must use equipment to send information, try a pulsed (give & take) signal, 'asking' not demanding
Find a way to address the resistance, and avoid the dog feeling the need to underline how he's feeling by escalating to more dramatic behaviors.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: I really appreciate your quick response. Your past information gave me great advice on understanding my behavior and scent. The question still remaining is: does my younger dogs general anxiety lead to any of these fights? Also, how can I help her with her anxiety and put her more at ease?
Here is some more info......Cartainly a fearful dog attracts aggression, the reason, she is considered unstable and an unstable member in the pack puts the pack in danger.......
Hope this may help.....
Fear: How to Help Your Dog Overcome It
Dogs can develop fear of any person, place or thing. Considering that the same thing happens in humans, this isn't surprising.
Dogs inherit their temperaments from the dogs who make up the family tree. A confident mom and dad don't guarantee confident offspring, though, since dogs further back in the bloodline may have planted genetic surprises that hide for a generation or even a few generations. Dogs have less reasoning ability to overcome their "hardwired" genetic behaviors than humans do, so a poor genetic temperament can be difficult or even impossible to overcome.
Physical health plays a major role in dog temperament, too. Unable to explain that something hurts, a dog will try to avoid that painful situation. Some dogs do this by moving away if they are free to do so, but these dogs as well as the more assertive types may react aggressively to ward off something they know from experience is going to hurt. With any fearful or aggressive dog behavior, medical issues are the first thing to consider.
Once a dog has begun to react with fear, correcting the original trigger of the behavior is not always enough to change the dog's habit of reacting that way. The earlier you intervene, the better your chances of relieving the fear. Recovery is faster when you start rehabilitating the fear sooner. In fact if you work through it immediately after the scary event happens, you may be able to alleviate the fear in just one session. In such a case you're dealing with a first impression rather than an established fear.
Don't count on this quick fix, though. Be prepared to continue helping the dog at a pace comfortable over the long haul for as long as it takes. Your patience and willingness to work through tiny steps will in and of itself take pressure off the dog and speed the process. Slower is literally faster when it comes to this type of work with your dog.
Puppies who have the right early life experiences have the best chance of developing confident personalities that cope well with life and have the ability to bounce back from stresses. The temperament the puppy inherits from its ancestors will always be a limiting factor on just how healthy the personality can be. But the right handling will make the most of whatever strengths are there, and help to limit the problems from the dog's inherent temperament weaknesses.
Providing a puppy with the right early experiences is more complicated than it seems. Puppies can stoically endure events in their lives, apparently be fine, and then show serious fear reactions from those events as their defense drives emerge with maturity.
Yet keeping a puppy protected from any potential fear or stress doesn't work, either. Part of growing up to become confident is learning that scary things can have happy endings. Another part is learning that you can overcome something scary. On the other hand, puppies can get carried away in the enjoyment of overcoming and become aggressors.
Puppies who have too little stress in early life can grow up lacking the ability to handle stress. Puppies who have no frustrations can grow up unable to cope with frustration, and unable to take "no" for an answer. This can happen to pups who grow up in one-puppy litters with no littermates to compete with, and to pups removed from the mother dog prior to 8 weeks of age.
Into every life, no matter how adorable, a little rain must fall. Otherwise the pup will not be equipped to cope with the inevitable storms of later life. This is not only tough on the people and other dogs who will have to cope with this dog later, but it can also set the dog up for stress and unhappiness in life. The right experiences give your pup the best chance of a full and happy life.
Puppy classes have saved many a puppy and family from dire problems later. A good class will help the family find the right balance of taking the puppy out for positive experiences and setting limits for the puppy. Class can also teach the family the dog-handling and management skills to make it all work.
Puppies seem deceptively easy to rear. It's actually a sophisticated and potentially exhausting job to properly raise a puppy. The breed of dog is a factor in the degree of difficulty, as is the care that has been taken by the breeder. Good genetic decisions about the dogs in the bloodline combined with excellent handling in the puppy's earliest weeks are both critical factors in the dog your puppy will become.
For people not equipped or interested in raising puppies, plenty of dogs who are past this difficult and uncertain life stage need homes. Instead of "inheriting someone else's problems," as some tend to view adopting adult dogs, you are quite likely to find yourself blessed by the love and care someone has invested in the dog's early months. Either way, the dog's personality is much more evident and testable than is the future personality of a puppy.
Several things seem to haunt the minds of a great many fearful dogs. Let's look at some of these, why they may develop, and hints for working through them.
Vacuum Cleaners and other Household Appliances
Vacuum cleaners make weird noises. Their use involves a person thrusting the thing around the room in gestures that wouldn't make any sense to a dog. The concept of cleaning a floor, other than by eating any food spilled on it, would also be foreign to a dog's way of thinking. There's not much about a vacuum cleaner for a dog to like! The occasional herding dog will chase it because it moves, and some dogs will "attack" or threaten it because it isn't acting right!
Adding treats to vacuuming time can work through this fear. If the dog is really traumatized about the device, you may need to start with setting up the vacuum cleaner and giving the dog treats in the next room. Over several sessions you can move the treat-giving closer, never faster than the dog's comfort level can handle. Do the process with the vacuum off, next with the vacuum cleaner running, and finally with the vacuum cleaner moving. While going through this program, put the dog in a different place whenever you vacuum so as not to undo all the good conditioning by scaring the dog again.
To condition your dog to appliances that merely make noise without lunging around the room, use the same process. For these appliances as well as the vacuum, you can use not only treats, but also meal times (place the dog's dish increasingly closer to the scary thing, a little closer with each meal) and games. Dogs who like to fetch have a real advantage, because retrieving is so motivating to dogs.
The dishwasher is an interesting case. Dishwashers that open with a big movement can cause dogs to dash out of the room. But if your dog likes to try to sneak a lick off a dirty dish when you open the dishwasher, there's a built-in treat. Some of these enterprising dogs love dishwashers. That makes it your job to avoid hurting the dog with the dishwasher door, or letting the dog eat spoiled food. Dishwasher soap can be toxic.
The dishwasher would be a case for teaching the dog to calmly remain in the room but back from danger. Reward the dog for keeping his head OUT of the dishwasher!
For similar reasons to the fear of vacuum cleaners, some dogs are afraid of lawnmowers. This seems to be less common, probably because we use lawnmowers in the open air, not in enclosed spaces where dogs feel trapped and the noise reverberates off the walls like the vacuum cleaner. There are dogs who run from lawn mowers, though, and even worse, dogs who will try to "attack" a lawnmower. Running lawnmowers are extremely dangerous to dogs. Always remove your dog from the yard being mowed and keep the dog in a safe place until the lawnmower is turned off.
Fear of walking on vinyl or other smooth floors is common. Fear begets more fear in this case, because when the dog slips even more from tensing up and trying to hold tight to the floor with toenails. Sometimes the events that trigger these fears are invisible to the human eye. A puppy slips and hits her chin on the floor, hard. Other parts of the body can take similar licks when feet slip. Dogs seem to have trouble at times managing all four feet at once. Unless they develop the skill for some reason-such as special training or games-they may find it awkward to walk backwards or to get their feet under control when one or more feet slip.
For dogs with orthopedic problems including hip dysplasia, walking on smooth floors can be painful. Make physical changes to aid these dogs. You can put rubber-backed rugs across the floor as a pathway for the dog. If the slick floor is not at your home but rather is someplace you're visiting, you could either carry the dog or transport the dog across that floor on wheels.
If you know the fear is not based in a physical problem, use mealtimes to work through it. Mealtimes are opportunities to work on fears of slick floors that you know are not based in physical problems. Place the dish in a spot relative to the smooth floor where the dog seems comfortable. Meal by meal, gradually move the dish further and further into the room with the smooth floor.
Continuing to feed the dog on this floor-provided it doesn't hurt the dog to walk on it-can help maintain the dog's ability to cope with smooth floors. Be alert, though, for changes in the dog's body that mean it is no longer humane to ask the dog to walk on this floor. Most dogs develop orthopedic problems as they age, and injuries that cause these problems are extremely common at younger ages, too. At that point, add a rug walkway for the dog.
In situations where a dog walking on a smooth floor is unavoidable, look at possibilities for making the feet grip better or making the floor less slick. The way the floor is cleaned and treated makes a difference, and you'll also want to promptly clean up any fluids spilled on the floor. Various things have been tried for making the feet grip better. Discuss safe options with your veterinarian. Dog show enthusiasts suggest creating a puddle of sugary soda pop on the floor and wetting the dog's feet in it to make them sticky!
Sights and Sounds
Some dogs react fearfully to something that looks strange. Others are more reactive to things that sound strange. Sensitivities from one dog to another are largely rooted in the huge differences in how different dogs actually perceive the world. Dogs have been bred for such different tasks that their bodies are quite different from one another. Paying attention to your dog's reactions will help you learn what kinds of things are likely to cause your dog to react. Whatever the fear, the principles outlined below will help you work through it.
When a dog reacts fearfully to a man, people tend to jump to the conclusion that a man has abused the dog in the past. Possibly that is the case, but often it's a problem of lack of early social experience with men. Men, women, children, people wearing big hats, people in Halloween costumes and a wide variety of other human presentations can spook dogs who have not experienced that "style" of person before.
Of course, if there has been actual abuse or something has happened to frighten the dog in conjunction with that type of human, the dog's fears will go deeper. Either way, the treatment is basically the same. Don't let people force themselves on a fearful dog. In spite of hurt feelings on the part of the offended human, this process needs to be taken just as slowly as when dealing with any other fear.
With a severe fear that causes the dog to suffer, you need to enlist the help of a canine behavior specialist who can prescribe both the behavior modification protocol to deal with the fear as well as suggest any indicated medication. When the fear places people in danger because the dog reacts aggressively, that's another case and again a specialist in canine behaviour will be the person to help.
Similarly, get help quickly with an extremely fearful puppy. The right intervention can do so much more for a puppy during early development than if you let this opportunity pass and the habit of fear to become stronger with time.
Whether working on your own or with the help of a specialist, the following principles are typically part of working through a dog's fear:
1. Have a veterinarian examine the dog and perform any indicated tests to diagnose problems that could be causing pain, sickness or disability. Work with the veterinarian to treat the problem and ease the dog's physical pain. Bring the dog back to the veterinarian regularly.
Don't assume that a problem brought under control at one point will never need further treatment. Make any indicated changes in treatment to keep the dog comfortable.
This requires detective work! Dogs have a survival instinct to hide their pain, because an animal showing weakness in the wild gets killed. Look hard for possible physical problems, rather than expecting the dog to cry out in pain or otherwise "tell you."
2. Assess the problem:
a. Do you know of an event that started the fear?
b. Is the thing the dog fears actually dangerous and/or likely to cause pain to the dog? How are you going to keep your dog safe?
c. Are people or other animals being placed in danger by the dog's behavior and if so, how are you going to put a stop to that danger right now?
d. How can you protect the dog from experiencing this fear while you work through the behavior modification steps?
e. Is it necessary for the dog to cope with this situation, or could things reasonably be managed to simply keep the dog away from it from now on?
f. If you determine it's better to protect your dog from this situation rather than trying to treat the fear, give the dog time to get used to your new plan. Chances are you'll be surprised to see how much happier your dog becomes.
3. To treat the fear, plan the steps for conditioning your dog gradually to the feared thing. Plan how you are going to start at a DISTANCE from the feared thing, with it functioning at a low INTENSITY for periods of short DURATION. Plan how you will, over time, gradually reduce the distance, increase the intensity, and expose the dog to the feared thing for periods of longer duration. Plan how you will increase one variable at a time.
4. Determine what things this dog finds rewarding. For the greatest chance of success, you'll want to use as many of them as possible. Incentives include: food treats the dog likes, food treats the dog goes crazy for, regular meals, retrieving, games with you the dog enjoys playing, special toys reserved for special times, "happy-timing" the dog with a jolly attitude (using excited voice and body language to convey to the dog that is a happy thing), privileges such as a walk or ride in the car, and anything else THIS dog likes.
If you can't come up with anything your dog finds rewarding, developing these motivators is your first training goal! You may need the help of a behavior specialist or trainer. One option is to break the dog's daily food into more, smaller meals. Some or even all of the food can be fed by hand, depending on what works best for your conditioning program.
5. Discontinue all exposure of the dog to the feared thing. Start your conditioning program at the distance, intensity and duration where your dog happily accepts rewards. Advance very slowly toward your goal of having the dog comfortable with the feared thing so that the dog will be able to function happily around it in the future. Be patient and take as long as needed to avoid pushing the dog too fast. If you trigger the dog's fear during this process, that's a big setback, so keep the progress slow enough to avoid that.
6. Reward your dog at times the dog is showing confidence. Avoid rewarding fearfulness. Certainly don't punish the dog for acting fearful! Just give the rewards at the moments when you see in your dog the state of mind that is your goal.
Chances are good that at some point with every dog you'll have the opportunity help the dog overcome a fear. Some dogs go through most of their lives with barely an apprehensive moment, and then get hit hard in old age when their bodies begin to fail and they don't know how to cope. Now you know how to help your dog develop the ability to cope, at any age.
UNPROVOKED ATTACKS ARE ACTUALLY EXTREMELY rare but very dangerous.
When they occur, there is usually a considerable size difference between the two dogs—the attacker is large and the victim small—and the attack is usually eerily silent, rapid, and often predatory.
Often both the attacker and the victim are un-socialized. Sometimes the attacker picks up and carries and shakes the victim. This is a dire emergency: scream blue murder! Create as much noise as possible to convince other people to shout and help chase down the dog and get him to release the victim. I once chased down a neighbour’s Golden Retriever to rescue a Yorkshire Terrier. Sadly, the Yorkie died a few days later.
Dog fights, on the other hand are extremely common but rarely dangerous.
Dog fights occur between all dogs but most usually between male dogs less than two years of age.
Most people assume one dog is a dominant bully and the other an innocent victim but more usually both dogs are under-socialized and lack confidence and social savvy.
Frequently, the two dogs will eyeball each other and the tension will progressively escalate as each dog is incited by the others reactivity. The resulting dogfight is often noisy and protracted; however, a few of these altercations necessitate a trip to the veterinary clinic.
The dogs are reactive but not dangerous because, during puppyhood, they both developed bite inhibition and learned to settle differences via Marquis of Dogsberry Fighting Rules: only biting the other dog from the neck forwards (scuff and soft part of neck, muzzle, head, and ears) and never puncturing the skin. Learning bite inhibition and socially acceptable stereotypical fighting patterns are the most important reasons for dogs to attend off-leash puppy and adolescent classes.
The best, safest, and most effective way to break up a dog fight is by pushing a “pig board” (a 36” x 30” piece of plywood with a handle in the top) between the two dogs. Maybe this should be standard equipment for all dog parks, boarding, and day care facilities. Certainly do not try to separate the dogs with your hands or feet. Even though dogs may have good bite inhibition towards each other, they may or may not have developed sufficient bite inhibition toward people depending on the degree of puppyhood play with humans.
Standard dog park procedure is for as many people as possible to quickly approach and circle the dogs (to prevent other dogs joining in the fray) while shouting, “Sit! Sit! Sit!” and then praising the dogs as soon as they stop fighting.
Breaking up dogfights is never without potential danger to people so the best strategy is to never let your dog get into a fight.
Prevent the desire to fight by thoroughly socializing your dog during puppyhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
Routinely condition your dog to enjoy the proximity of other dogs.
Never let your dog eyeball, lunge towards, or vocalize at other dogs.
Simply ask your dog to sit and shush and look at you. Three basic obedience commands—Sit, Shush, and Watch Me—will go a long way to prevent your dog from getting into trouble.
If your dog sits and shushes, he cannot bark and lunge, and if he looks at you he cannot eyeball and amp up the other dog.
But more importantly, if your dog sits and looks at you, he presents the aura of a calm and confident dog, one that has a much more important mission (paying attention to you) than being concerned with the growly silliness of other dogs. Basically, you are training your dog to emulate the behavior of a true Top Dog.
Remember, calm and confident dogs are seldom picked on, but under-socialized insecure dogs are attack/bait.
Dog to Dog Communication
Without a sound, two properly socialized dogs meeting for the first time can size each other up in just a few moments. An exchange of glances can tell each canine if they're going to be friends or enemies.
How can dogs do this without a sophisticated verbal language? The answer: facial expressions, body language and posturing. Although dogs signal intent by barks and growls, the message is not complete without the telegraphy of body and facial language.
Various parts of the dog’s body are involved in this form of communication. Here is a quick primer in canine body language.
A combination of facial expressions communicate a dog's mood and intentions that can be understood by other species, including humans. Here are a few examples of facial communication:
• Relaxed mood: Soft eyes, lit up, looking – but not staring. Ears forward or flopped, with tips bent over (if anatomically possible).
• Mouth open, lips slightly back, giving the impression of smiling. Tongue hanging limply from the side of the mouth
• Anxiety: Eyes glancing sideways or away. Ears to the side of the head or flopped. Teeth clenched, lips firmly retracted. Tongue either not evident or lip licking
• Intimidating: Eyes staring like searchlights. Ears forward. Teeth bared
• Fearfulness: Eyes looking forward or away, pupils dilated. Ears pressed back close to the head. Panting/breathing hard through clenched or slightly open mouth. Jaw tense so that sinews show in the cheeks
• Stress: Yawning plus other signs of anxiety or fearfulness (as above)
• Head down ("hang dog"): Submission or depression
• Head in normal mid-way position: Everything is all right
• Head/neck turned to side: Deference
• Head held high/neck craning forward: Interest or, depending on other signs, a challenge
• Head resting on other dog's back: Demonstrating dominance
• Tensing of muscles and the raising of hackles: Threat/imminent fight
• Play bow – head low, rump elevated: The universal sign of canine happiness and an invitation to play
• Paws on top of another dog's back: Dominance
• Looming over: Dominance
• Rolling over: Submission/deference
• Urinating by squatting: Deference
• Urinating by leg lifting: Dominance/defiance
• Humping: Dominance
• Backing: Unsure/fearful
• Tail up: Alert, confident, dominant
• Tail wagging: Dog's energy level is elevated (excited or agitated)
• Tail held low or tucked: Fearful, submissive
• Tail held horizontal and wagging slowly: Caution
• Tail held relaxed and stationary: Contented dog
There is no one sign that gives away a dog's feelings but if you consider all the body language signs, you can get a pretty good idea of what's going on in the dog’s head. A dog that is staring at another dog, his ears pricked and his tail stiff, is probably conveying dominance, or at least a wish for it.
A dog that averts his gaze from another dog and hunkers down nervously as if waiting for an explosion is likely fearful and is trying to defuse the situation by acting submissive.
Sometimes body language signs can be ambivalent, however. For example, it is not uncommon to observe a dog growling at another dog while occasionally glancing to the side, backing up, and with his tail wagging. Such a dog is invariably fearful. Whenever fear signs are present, fear is in the equation. These dogs are unpredictable with other dogs and will alter their body language and behaviour according to circumstances. If the opposing dog retires, they may jump around and "look happy." If the opposing dog approaches too close the fearful one may snap or bite. Owners, if present, can help defuse their dog's ambivalence and uncertainty by taking a strong leadership role. It's amazing how rapidly a fearful dog's disposition will change when an authoritative owner steps in and controls the moment. Dogs need strong leaders.
Another aspect of communication is odor. Because dogs have such an amazing sense of smell, it is likely that they learn a lot about other dogs from their smell. That's what all the sniffing is about. It is difficult to imagine what sort of information passes between dogs via this medium. We do know that intact male dogs "smell male" (because of male sex pheromones) and that neutered males do not have this characteristic musk. By neutering males, we alter the olfactory signals they emit and thus other dog's perception of them. It may even be that the "non-male smell" equates with a diestrus (in-between heat periods) or a neutered bitch smell.
When an intact male dog meets a neutered one, the response may not be confrontational because the other dog doesn't perceive a rival. He may believe the neutered dog is female.
Non-verbal communications signalling "let's play," "leave me alone," "who do you think you're talking to," "I'm not going to cause you a problem, I promise," are going on all the time between dogs but many dog owners don't realize it. It's amazing what can be conveyed with the odd glance or posture. Some dogs are masters at such subtle language.
The worst canine communicators are those dogs that have been raised without the company of other dogs during a critical inter-dog socialization phase of their lives (3 to 6 weeks). Hand raised orphans provide an extreme example of what may be lacking. Many of these dogs are socially inappropriate having not learned canine communication and social etiquette. They may attack and continue to attack another dog when the psychological war is already won. They may not know how to signal defeat when they are being attacked themselves. And that's just the (extreme) tip of their communication failures.
Most dogs are not this "dyslexic" and can communicate what they need – as with humans – but the good communicators usually have the edge. Fully functional body language is a beautiful thing that can help resolve uncertainties at a glance. Humans communicate in body language too. We're just not so good at it and some of us are positively stiff. If dogs could talk they'd probably categorize us as "dumb animals."
The Bark: What is Your Dog Saying?
A few years ago, an article in the Smithsonian magazine concluded that dogs may bark for no reason. It's just something that they do – a function without a purpose, so to speak.
That view is not widely shared. Even dry, dusty studies of wild canine behaviour attest to the fact that barking serves a function of long-range communication. It is at least as important to dogs as a marine foghorn warning is to mariners. Even the most elementary interpretation of barking is that it is a non-visual communication signalling the dog's presence and territorial concerns.
On hearing a bark, the receiver of this audible message knows:
• The presence of another dog out there
• His approximate direction
• His approximate distance
• The sender's level of the excitement/energy/commitment
The sender of the message knows exactly what he is transmitting but may not know to whom.
• If the recipient responds by barking back, he confirms:
• The receipt of the message
• His presence of another dog out there
• His location and energy level (by how hard and fast he barks)
All of the above is really "old hat" and well accepted. What becomes more controversial, however, is whether the bark is more than just a "here I am" type noise that signals a dog's location and territorial claim.
Most dog owners believe that they can recognize their dog's different types of barking. The dog may, for example, emit an excited, alerting bark when a friend approaches the home but may sound more aggressive and foreboding when a stranger or a would-be intruder draws close. In addition to the different tones of barking, the same tone of bark can be used in different situations to "mean" different things.
If your dog's ball has rolled under the couch and he wants someone to get it out, he may bark for assistance. A learned communication, like verbal language in people, a bark is used in this context because it works to produce the desired response from you. Once he gains your attention, you recognize immediately what the dog wants by: the barking itself, the dog's orientation, and the situation. Humans also use a variety of signals to communicate with each other; they speak, orientate, gesticulate, and use facial expressions and other body language.
But could you understand what your dog wants by listening to it bark on the telephone? Probably not. But you might be able to determine the tone of the bark (friendly or hostile), the volume and intensity of the bark (his state of arousal) and the duration of barking – continuous or intermittent (indicating how intent the dog is).
Obviously, barking is not as sophisticated a method of vocal communication as human language but it works to convey elementary messages. Humans probably grunted their wishes to each other and barked orders a few hundred generations ago. It was a start. Interestingly, human consonant sounds are thought to be "hard-wired" from these humble beginnings just as the dogs bark is "hard-wired." Human language (in any country) comprises different constellations of consonants strung together in creative ways. Dogs have a long way to go to catch up but some do seem to try very hard with what little hard-wired sound-producing ability they possess by using different intensities, tones, and groupings of barks, growls, and mutters, interspersed with the occasional howl to get their message across.
Their sophisticated body language compensates to some extent for this limited vocal response. With patience, dogs can "train" their human counterparts to understand what they're trying to say.
A Key to Canine Body Language
Every dog, whether Akita, Bichon, or Beagle, knows the same language. You and your dog probably pick up on each other's signals without thinking much about it. But if your dog begins to behave differently, if you are getting to know a new dog, or if you encounter a dog you don't know, it helps to be able to read the universal body language of dogs.
If you and your dog landed in Tokyo or Timbuktu tomorrow and were greeted by a local person and his dog, it would take only a few minutes for the two dogs to understand each other. Hours later, you would still be wondering if you were bowing properly, making acceptable hand gestures, or using the right table manners. The dogs, on the other hand, would know just what to do – the lead dog eats first.
Signals Dogs Use
Although a dog can't speak and has no hands and fingers for gesturing as humans do, you can watch key parts of his body to determine how he's feeling and reacting to the world around him.
• Face. Although the dog's facial muscles are not as refined as a human's, he can wrinkle or straighten his forehead to show confusion or determination. If your dog wants you to give him further direction, he may raise his eyelids quizzically and tilt his head to one side.
• Eyes. A dog’s eyes brighten when he looks at a creature he considers friendly and when he wants to play. If he is afraid, his pupils dilate and he shows the whites of his eyes. He averts his eyes to avoid confrontation. But if he is angry or ready to defend himself, his eyes narrow and follow your every move. At this point, it's particularly important not to look the dog in the eye because he sees that as a challenge to defend his position.
• Lips, teeth and tongue. A relaxed dog in normal posture may let his tongue loll out of his mouth. If he wants something from you, if he is happy or wants to play, he may pull his lips back in what appears to be a smile and show his teeth, an expression, by the way, dogs show only to humans and not to other dogs. But beware the dog that bares his clenched teeth and wrinkles his nose. He is ready to attack.
• Ears. The dog's sense of hearing is much more acute than ours and even dogs with floppy ears have the ability to move and turn them to follow sounds. If a dog’s ears are raised, he is relaxed, listening, or showing acceptance. If they are back, he may be signalling submission and deference or may be frankly fearful.
• Tail. A dog wags his tail when he is happy or wants to play. It is really an energy indicator. When he is submissive, he tucks it between his legs. A taut tail, held down rigidly behind him, may show that he is prepared to spring since he uses his tail for balance when jumping.
• Voice. Dogs are vocal animals. They yip, bark, whimper, howl, and growl. The pitch or volume of their sounds can increase with their level of emotion. A bark may be playful or aggressive. Unlike body signals, dog noises can mean different things from different dogs.
Posture Speaks Volumes
When two dogs meet, as long as their human companions aren't tugging tight on their leashes, they carry out a series of actions that looks like a choreographed dance. With their bodies tense and tails taut, they circle and sniff each other, silently gathering and exchanging information, ready to defend themselves at any moment if necessary. They hold their ears back and the hair on their back may stand on end. They often avoid direct eye contact at first, sizing each other up to determine if the stranger is strong or weak, male or female, hostile or non-hostile. One dog may place his head on the nape of the other's neck or nip at his nose. It seems they are getting ready to fight and then, one lies down. Soon, they may separate and urinate. At this point they have agreed on which dog is dominant.
Dogs learn body language from their mothers during the first 8 weeks of their lives and they test out this form of communication with their littermates. If a dog misses out on such training, he will have trouble communicating with other dogs throughout life.
• Normal posture. The dog appears alert with head held high. His tail moves freely. His jaw is relaxed.
• Invitation to play. The dog happily signals his desire to play by wagging his tail and dipping down into a "play bow." His front legs are in a crouch and his backbone swoops up, leaving his rear haunches high. His head is held up expectantly to capture your attention. He may raise a front leg or lean to one side with his head.
• Submission. The dog crouches down further and still appears relaxed. He may lift a front foot as in a play invitation, but his ears are back and his tail is down. He may yawn, scratch, or sneeze, which is meant to calm him and the dogs or people confronting him.
• Fearful aggression. A dog who is afraid tenses his body and holds his tail rigid, though it may be wagging. His rear legs are ready to run or spring. He bares his teeth, draws back his ears and the hair on his back stands on end. He growls or snarls constantly to warn off the subject of his fear.
• Dominance aggression. Teeth bared, this dog stares you down and advances confidently with his tail wagging slowly and his ears in the forward (alert) position.
• Total submission. The dog drops his tail and curls it between his legs. He drops his head to avid eye contact. He rolls over on his side and bares his belly, with one hind leg raised and urinates. If he isn't afraid, he'll tilt his head up a bit and raise his ears to show trust.