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lucysnewmum
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PostSubject: what are your hands telling your dog?   Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:06 pm

you may think that is an odd question but there is a very good reason why i ask. i am currently studying the way we communicate with dogs, how they communicate back to us and how sometimes we get our wires crossed because the body language has been misread.

for instance - it is well documented that humans use their eyes and their hands in the main. eye contact and body posture come a close second. dogs use their noses and mouths to find out about the environment. and therby lies the problem. most humans do not know enough about canine body language to correctly read what their dog is trying to tell them which as we know can lead to disastrous misunderstandings and despite us being of higher intelligence the poor dog will always get the blame. eye contact or staring is only used between two dogs when a challenge has been made from one to the other and unless one of them becomes submissive and turns away a fight ensues.

now- imagine the scenario. you meet a friend who has just got the most adorable new dog. they walk towards you and the first thing you do is go down to the dog's level directly infront of it to say hello! you are now in a crouched position at eye level with the dog. he doesnt know you. he doesnt know you are friendly and only want to say hello. he only knows that here is a complete stranger, who hasnt even had the decency to go sniff his butt, staring straight at him! a well socialised dog may put up with this uninvited behaviour from you but a nervous dog may feel threatened and decide to fight! and just how close is your face to his teeth at this moment in time??? think about it.

ok - so you got away with that one and the dog decides that here is a human who isnt too much of a threat and decides to wait and see what you do next. so you put out your hand and pat him on the head. once he has recovered from the temporary blurred vision that enthusiastic head patting can cause he finds that you have got to your feet and are now bending over him to stroke his neck and back. your stance, in his eyes, is much the same as another dog trying to assert his authority over him (some dogs mount from the front as well as the back remember). he is now most uncomfortable and tries to back away but is blocked by his owner. he is completely in a flight or fight situation. what is the nearest thing to him? your outstretched hand!

our hands can become the aggressor without us realising it thus putting ourselves in danger of a bite. a certain tv trainer uses the claw method to control his dogs. clearly this is seen by the dog as a bite from another dog albeit a dog in human clothing. put that technique into the hands of a less experienced dog handler and you have a recipe for disaster. but even the slightest touch in the wrong place could give the wrong signal to a dog.

there is hope however that if we learn about the body language of our canine friends we can understand them so much better and have more fulfilling relationships with them. a dog who is unsure of the encounter will turn their back on you, pull his ears back. a dog who is not too confident about people will offer his bottom first, tail tucked firmly beneath them. A dog who isnt too confident about being touched will lean away from you whilst allowing you to continue. all dogs have a 'safe' zone where they are happy to be touched. have you ever got on the floor with your dog for a good old fuss and your dog has rolled onto their side or back lifting one paw in the air? the dog is telling you its ok to tickle their tum but not where you are touching at the moment thank you very much.

there are many signs we can watch out for that our dog is unhappy with the way we are touching them. any stiffness in body posture, leaning back, ears back, turning away from us or tail between the legs is a sure sign that they are uncomfortable with the sensation. our hands can become very scary to our dogs. we may think we are doing no harm and showing affection when all along we are causing our canine friends stress. how often do we cover our dogs eyes when we stroke their heads, or cover their ears in play, or touch the very sensitive wiskas round their muzzle? all of these actions can cause a temporary loss of the ability to monitor their environment and could lead to a bite.

the best time to teach a dog that our hands are friendly and give out treats etc is from puppy hood. puppies soak up information and will quickly learn to trust that hands are not going to hurt them. stroking the chest area, behind the ears, down the middle back, a tummy rub, and gentle massaging are the best options to choose for letting your dog know your hands are caring hands. avoid touching sensitive areas, unless necessary for examination purposes, and your dog will come to love the attention your hands give him!

so how do you know when you are touching in the right places? well, here are some safe ideas to help you.
1. sit on the floor with your dog - avoiding direct eye contact - and ask him to lay between your legs. tickle or stroke him at the base of his rib cage. if he lifts one paw he would prefer it if you tickled a bit higher.
2. with your dog sat at the side of you rub just behind one of his ears. if he leans towards you - he likes it. if he closes his eyes all the better.
3. still sitting at the side of your dog rub his chest - if he doesnt lean away from you that is ok - he is enjoying it.
4. move to the front of your dog and keep him in a sit. if you are close enough he will probably lick your chin letting you know he wants to be friendly - if he feels you are too close for comfort he will lean backwards, or turn his head avoiding eye contact.
5. watch out for the play bow. this often means 'come on then lets have a game' but it can also mean 'hang on a minute i am not too comfortable here - lets act silly and get out of this situation' . you will see the latter more often than not when your dog is meeting other dogs at play especially if they are larger than him!!!

and finally yawning!!! often mistaken for a sign that a dog is tired. not so in a lot of cases. the dog is merely in conflict with himself about what to do next. ever called your dog by name and he has yawned and maybe licked his lips too????? this doesnt mean that he is bored with your company and would like something to eat! it means he has heard his name and is unsure what is going to happen next. did you call him to harshly? was your voice deeper in tone than normal? were you telling him off?
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PostSubject: Re: what are your hands telling your dog?   Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:34 pm

What an excellent summary of communication with dogs! Great tips too! A good book that talks a little more in detail about this exact thing is Patricia McConnell's book called The Other End of the Leash. Its very important to not only focus on the dog when we are training but on ourselves too because we may definitely be saying one thing but our body language gives a whole different message.

Thanks for the post Gilly!

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PostSubject: Re: what are your hands telling your dog?   Tue Mar 09, 2010 6:10 pm

wow..that is quite a bit of useful information! thanks for typing all of that out!
I know i use my hand some times to make my dog either really excited or know if i point (along with my voice) if he's in trouble. really interesting how it all works though.
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PostSubject: Re: what are your hands telling your dog?   Tue Mar 09, 2010 6:15 pm

your welcome..... i am learning so much and part of my philosophy is to share my knowledge! the more i learn the more i question the way i handle my own dog and the more aware i am of her state of mind. i have certainly misread quite a few signs she gives me and now i understand what a turn here or a flick of the tongue there means i am fine tuning the way i handle her. in the last week alone she has become a far more relaxed dog and is making even faster progress in her training presumably because she is also learning that i am not to be feared. she still opens the fridge door mind you but thats another story!
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PostSubject: Re: what are your hands telling your dog?   Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:14 pm

lucysnewmum wrote:
your welcome..... i am learning so much and part of my philosophy is to share my knowledge! the more i learn the more i question the way i handle my own dog and the more aware i am of her state of mind. i have certainly misread quite a few signs she gives me and now i understand what a turn here or a flick of the tongue there means i am fine tuning the way i handle her. in the last week alone she has become a far more relaxed dog and is making even faster progress in her training presumably because she is also learning that i am not to be feared. she still opens the fridge door mind you but thats another story!

Its great that you emphasize that. Sometimes your 'traditional' trainers are all happy with themselves because a dog has stopped a behavior and they think they've cured it when in fact when you take a close look at the dog its utterly frightened! Also helps you to pick and choose what training methods will work best for your particular dog.

ROFL @ the fridge thing ROFL

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PostSubject: Re: what are your hands telling your dog?   Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:41 pm

Gilly, can i repost this on my "bd4u" site?

please, please, please ... Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: what are your hands telling your dog?   Fri Mar 12, 2010 7:25 pm

Betterdog4u wrote:
Gilly, can i repost this on my "bd4u" site?

please, please, please ... Very Happy

sure you can michael.... i would do it myself but my fingers are worn out!!! lol
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PostSubject: the human default-channel is Verbal and Vocal: spoken-language...    Wed Aug 18, 2010 3:29 pm

hey, gilly! Smile happy to see U here, isn't it GREAT to have a pos-R venue for discussion?
i dunno about U, but i was getting close to Mad my explosive threshold on some forums, where pos-R posters are mobbed by enthusiastic preachers
from The Church of Pack-Theory and Dominion, Dominance and Dumb-inance - the folks who think tradition is holy, punishment is mandatory,
and teaching non-humans is impossible. Confused

lucysnewmum wrote:
...it is well documented that humans use their eyes and their hands in the main [to communicate].
eye contact and body posture come a close second.

i think that humans use body-lingo Mostly UNconciously - which is unfortunate, as it can be a full and astonishingly productive
communication-channel - but i think humans have a powerful default to verbal communication, which is prejudicial to dogs, who can
learn verbal labels and with time, can even generalize concepts -
but the verbal-channel is limited to labels and cues for dogs; they NEVER become conversant, verbal-speech is one-way; also it takes a lot of repeated,
successful teaching, and it's very difficult for individual dogs to generalize concepts.

body-parl OTOH is easy for dogs; they have a broad instinctive and learned vocabulary of visual cues and signals, they notice new-signals
and learn visual cues readily, and have an apparently limitless ability to learn NEW visual-signals. this ** is ** the mother-tongue of dogs, around
the world. Chinese dogs, American dogs, and Izbekistan dogs do not need translators; they don't speak English or Spanish, Manchurian or Farsi
or Urdu - they all talk Dog.


if a trainer cannot READ dogs fluently, to assess their overall temp, monitor their current state, and know when to step-in and remove
a dog from a situation, they are IMO crippled in their ability to safely handle, train or B-Mod any dog.
if a dog-owner or trainer cannot read their personal dog, a client's dog, or the emotional state and intention of other dogs
-
that person, any persons they meet, and any dog they encounter, is at genuine risk, IMO.

by learning to read dog-signals we can keep ourselves and our dogs safer, deepen our comprehension of dog-emotions and their roots, prevent needless
trauma and emotional fallout to dogs are humans alike, and teach and handle dogs and humans mindfully - actually notice emotions
in any species and all individuals, and work with those emotions; rather than ignore, misinterpret, or be ignorant of emotions, or try to suppress
or quash them.

emotions exist - they are undeniable facts; but humans, with our myopic perception of body-language, ignorance of other species, and hyperfocus
on verbal communication, are prejudiced and in many ways, blind - we need to grok emotions fully, acknowledge their primacy, and then
incorporate them into training, communication, and handling -
whether we are teaching dogs or children, guiding clients or grooming horses, IMO we damage our own effectiveness and injure our fellow-sapients,
when we avoid or ignore those messy, subjective emotions.
emotions are not just gooey drek; they enrich and permeate all aspects of every sapient
life, and demand the same respect and attention that any other critical characteristic is given.

a classic example of MISinterpreting dog-body-parl -
http://tinyurl.com/32c8wpk
a leash as a handle to lift a dog's tail is not 'elevating' that dog's mood, instilling confidence, etc; it only PREVENTS the dog expressing that fearful
response. the anxiety is still there; it's only expressed somewhere other than the tail [eyes, ears, head-down, mouth closed, tongue retracted,
body tight, etc.].


NOTICE when the dog melts-down:
this young-M yellow Lab is terrified exiting the auto - on a wide tag-collar - but it gets worse...
http://tinyurl.com/334ukaw
when does he really lose it? from 0:58-secs to 1:08, when 'trainer' michelle does 3 bad things:
BODY BLOCKS his forward-movement by standing upright in front of the dog, DRAGS him forcefully toward her - while standing as a barrier! -
Suspect AND forcefully punishes him by jerking on his new CHOKE collar! affraid well, that obviously works... NOT!


accommodating and altering emotional-responses:
NOTICE the advice to ** use dog-signals ** - blink frequently, yawn, make other calming signals - and AVOID staring:
sustained eyes-on-eyes contact - with anxious or fearful dogs; these are both important, when working with dogs or pups
who are new to U, or are [b]shy, anxious, under-socialized, highly-stressed
[new setting, new people, etc] or similar.
http://tinyurl.com/3yjrtf8

NOTICE right around the 2-min mark, shortly after the scroll of text, TUG - the new pup - does an exaggerated **duck**
when Kikopup reaches above his head with a flat hand: she does not touch him, it is an intention movement - but it still scares Tug,
he is obviously highly anxious about any hand-to-his-head contact, even as a prospect or possibility.

right-around 3:30, she is working with a GSD X pitbull pup, a F around 6 to 7-MO; the pup is hesitant to approach, offers appeasing
and ambivalent signals, but is interested and engaged - not shut down or cringing, but pushing her own self-imposed limits.

at 5:30-min mark, the TEXT-scroll and voice-over suggest offering a treat by tossing it BEYOND the dog - making the dog move
after the treat, thus giving a double reward: increased social-distance AKA decreased social-stress AND the treat.
sunny this is exceptionally powerful for aggressive dogs whose aggro is fear-based; also for undersocialized, globally-fearful, timid
or feral, and formerly-abused or genetically-fearful dogs: it gives the dog CONTROL - how close, when to approach, retreat + reset,
and then re-approach.
retreating, re-setting, and re-approaching make a potent series of rehearsals - they practice going toward the
former trigger:
the scary person, over + over; the dog incrementally reduces both their fear and their own social-distance.

JMO + IME; happy training,
- terry





Last edited by leashedForLife on Wed Aug 18, 2010 3:35 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : line breaks all wrong; Grrr...)
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