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Dog Body Language Quiz (How well can you read your dog?)

 
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Stacy Witscher wrote:
As an aside, I'm disappointed to hear that LGD's bark all the time. I won't like that. Our older pit generally will just kill small animals with very little noise, but I'm only in the suburbs now. Time will tell.



I would be careful not to group all LGD together in some regards.  There are some breeds that bark much more than others.  I haven't owned Pyrenees, but have heard they bark a lot.  I have had Akbash and Central Asian Shepherds, and they didn't bark much at all, less than other breeds I have had that weren't guarding breeds.  Even within breeds, you will find a lot of variation as far as barking is concerned.  



Agree, and I think it varies between individual dogs, the more high strung dogs will probably bark more out of concern over predators, and bored lonely dogs often do.  

My Anatolian prefers to sleep on the front porch when the weather is nice and he is pretty quiet, maybe once every couple of weeks he will start barking in the middle of the night but it is rare. He doesn't do it just for the hell of it, it is always in response to something in the environment.
 
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Steve Thorn wrote:I only got number 3 and 7 right. I guess I didn't know my dog as good as I thought.



Only one dared post his results?

I got them all 10 right, but I am a dog behaviorist hehe...

I can add a few things about this, so called calming signals as started and named by the norwegian Turid Rugas....
They are not conscious behaviour as we use language, but correspond to the non verbal part and are expressions of the ANS, autonomic nervous system. Some call this the organic intelligence. These signs are first made to cope with a situation and manage it, and regulate ones own nervous system. It is only second to this that it obviously shows the behavior to others, and thus communicate our inner state. Humans also do this, but they have a stronger neocortex and too often overide their sensations and the corresponding signals. We should actually let our inner system regulate ourselves better, as animals do! When their language is understood, it prevent aggression. This is what the police dog in the video tried to do, until he could not stand it anymore. He wanted to not bite.... And it really has nothing to do with dominance, as this concept was a too quick conclusion from wolves observation, and that has been recognized as an error later on, but the believes still stick though. (not to say dominance and hierarchy do not exist, but they seem to not have the purpose that was 1st concluded)

Dogs and also cats and others (a pig will shake if scratched at a place that does not agree with them!) use this body language many times during the day. You will understand it better if you separate the signs in 2 categories (you will not find this in books, this is from my personal work):
- Stiffen and slow
- Move

You will see like waves of behavior, alternating stiffening and moving. It is like entering stress and resolving stress. There are also intermediate movements that are intents to solve the stress reaction.
Example, a dog at ease will show almond shaped slightly blinking eyes with an opened mouth. The 1st sign of stress is shuting the mouth! It is where easier to notice the stiffening of muscles. Then the tongue can show out in an intent to manage the situation. You can see this often when taking pics, because do not understand what is a camera and what the human wants, and obviously they seem to want something.... Then you can see some more active licking... you find on the web peoples pics, like a dog in the arms, trying to escape and half of the face is hidden by the tongue! When they let go the dog, he can shake off the stress, and nothing to do with putting their hairs in place! Shaking is the best sign showing that the animal has reached resolution! I have seen dogs interactions with one dog intenting to make the other one comes out of the freeze response and engage and play.... and when the frozen dog starts to shake, the playful one shows before it is completed that he knows it is ok to approach!

Yawning is more complicated because it can be an intent that does not work, and yawns are repeated. they are powerful, and we can even calm dogs by yawning. We all know it is communicative dont we? If they are more on the inspire, they are intents. When they are full with the expire, they reach resolution.

Actually, when dogs stiffen and slow down, the stress activation is inhibited, to not act out. It is a form of freeze response, to not act out fight or flight behaviour. It happens when the nervous system cannot stand the situation while using the first calming system, which is called social engagement. This is why it so often happens in 2 situations:
- Meeting unknown dogs, persons or animals, because they are not sure that the interaction is safe and supportive.
- When a person, even well-known, insists in asking something the dog does not understand and becomes more tense (often because the human believes the dog understands and thinks the dog wants to dominate). This rupture the communication at a level you can call emotional, energetic, subtle etc. and the dog has to change nervous pathways in order to cope with the situation.
So, ther is more sympathetic activation, but also enough social engagement on board, so that inhibiting defensive patterns is still there. When it is not, the dog can have a fight or flight response. This has been selected by breeding, and it also depends on the way puppies have spent their first weeks etc.
A good example is the sudden biting from a dog that has just jumped up in the car. It will happen as a reflex if several persons are talking together and the dog is not part of the social engagement. If the people are having contact with social interaction with the dog, it is less likely to happen. But if the dog feels alone though with people, is tired from all the social interactions with those busy humans, the mix of feeling relieved by jumping in the car plus feeling blocked by all the friends saying bye bye to his owners can trigger a spontaneous reation that is too quick for the dog to be able to inhibit it! It is a defensive response using fight.

Another defense is escaping, as it is all about making distance. either you go away or make go away, but what you want is a safe distance. All the called calming signals are mainly organic and wise ways to regulate ourselves when we cannot use the 2 Fs because we need to stay close. We cannot be at a distance that is safe enough, so the system organizes itself to stay close by interactions and also blocking the fight and flight. I have once managed to get close to a frightened dog that nobody could catch in the bush, by approaching like a crab, on the side, and by stopping at the first sign of stress, which in this case was merely saliva swallowing! This dogs reaction was not fight but escape, and I felt safe. I grabbed the collar only when the dog started to show interaction with me, which started by smelling me with a slight movement of the head. I did the same, showing the side of my jaw and cheek. Then touched the shoulder with mine etc etc and we came out of the bush! Contact and respecting the signs are what work best to go through all the stages that the ANS needs to surf the wave and settle back to baseline.
 
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:
So, ther is more sympathetic activation, but also enough social engagement on board, so that inhibiting defensive patterns is still there. When it is not, the dog can have a fight or flight response. This has been selected by breeding, and it also depends on the way puppies have spent their first weeks etc.  



Just saw this. Great post! I recall hearing years ago that the calming signals were automatic/unconscious responses however never had much information on it. You explained it really well.

Your comment about breeding and environment also hits home. So many people think it is all about "nurture" but after doing rescue and interacting with lots of dogs it is apparent that nature plays a HUGE role. It is especially apparent among different breeds, they are often as different as apples and oranges regardless of how they are raised.

I have a dog that has had anxiety issues his entire life. Nine years ago his mom showed up as a very pregnant stray and had puppies in my kitchen 2 days later. The puppies obvious had 2-3 different fathers, and one was a little black male. That pup was literally born crying, and even at 3 weeks old showed an obvious fear of humans, if I held him he would turn his face away from me in avoidance whereas his siblings were regular bouncy interactive little puppies that jumped on me, gave lots of kisses, etc... Their mother was also very affectionate. These puppies had absolutely never had a bad experience, they were raised in a pen in the kitchen and didn't even meet another human until they were 5 weeks old (not well socialized...lol...but certainly never traumatized or abused).

By 5 months old the puppy still obviously had real trust issues with humans including me. I chose to keep him because I worried he could become a fear biter as he got older. While I could deal with a fear biter I didn't want to risk him being abandoned or abused by other people that could NOT deal with it.  He is nine years old now and over the years he has become much more affectionate. He displays a LOT of calming signals and the littlest thing causes him to "shake off" anxiety. Though behavior wise he is actually the most tolerant and easy going dog in the house.

He is also a perfect example of nature vs nurture. Having raised him from birth there was no question that his fear and anxiety was genetic and not stemming from a bad experience.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Lucrecia Anderson wrote:Just saw this. Great post! I recall hearing years ago that the calming signals were automatic/unconscious responses however never had much information on it. You explained it really well.


Thanks Lucretia to make me feel it was useful!
You also give me the opportunity to precise a bit more....
1st, even if I think you meant right, let's precise that automatic / unconscious does not mean this is un-intelligent at all! It is another form of intelligence, but it is our best inner wise! (yes we have it too...)

Lucrecia Anderson wrote:Your comment about breeding and environment also hits home. So many people think it is all about "nurture" but after doing rescue and interacting with lots of dogs it is apparent that nature plays a HUGE role. It is especially apparent among different breeds, they are often as different as apples and oranges regardless of how they are raised.


Breeds do have features in common indeed, though not about the dangerousness as some laws tend to make believe.
BUT, with a very specific "nurture", it is possible to modify some of the innate character! I have modified fearful puppies, but it has to be done much before 2 months old so this is a bredders' job. As you noticed with your dog, fearful dogs are much more easy to live with for a few points.... So I have transofrmed those dogs into being nearly too strong in their heads, which means the owner has to be careful and learn! Because what people call "being alpha" or dominate, is just some use of fear, and those dogs are not so sensitive to threat! (yes dominance exists but it is not really about training)

Dogs behaviour were selected from the different phases of hunting. This can be seen obviously in the differences between sheepdogs, according to what is asked. It is the approach of the prey. Then hunting dogs also show that it is possible to select for increasing one part of the hunting behaviour!
Then, about reaction to threat, it is possible to select for more often choosing fight instead of fear, and then you get a better guard dog. But also more danger from the dog. Well, if the dog doess not feel threatened and is correctly socialized, it is not dangerous.

Lucrecia Anderson wrote:The puppies obvious had 2-3 different fathers, and one was a little black male. That pup was literally born crying, and even at 3 weeks old showed an obvious fear of humans,
... (not well socialized...lol...but certainly never traumatized or abused).
... He displays a LOT of calming signals and the littlest thing causes him to "shake off" anxiety. Though behavior wise he is actually the most tolerant and easy going dog in the house.

He is also a perfect example of nature vs nurture. Having raised him from birth there was no question that his fear and anxiety was genetic and not stemming from a bad experience.



I hope you will like to re-think your opinion here!
It is obvious that he has difficulties to regulate his nervous system, as he uses those sigals often. It is also obvious that you did the right choice for him!
What I suggest to rethink is what is "a bad experience"...
He was born crying and maybe more little than others? He might just have had a bad experience during gestation and/or birth! Then it is enough to not regulate as well as the others, and thus making it difficult to relate to another species from the beginning.

I have had a big stress in-utero myself, and had difficulties to cope with people, especially as far as I can remember as a child. I have had difficulties to mention this sort of thing in the forum, as it was sometimes badly interpreted, about being introvert for example. When talking about trauma or bad experiences, we have to take care that seemingly ordinary events can be traumatizing! And we do not take into account sufficiently what we do not cause.... But the outside world also creates bad experiences we are not responsible of!

We underestimate the influence of health issues, microbs, fungi, parasites, chemicals and pollutants, and in-utero events, on all living beings and even before birth (even more because part of the nervous system is not mature. The freeze part is mature before, because anyway we cannot fight nor flee very far during pregnancy. So we freeze/dissociate). Of course there are genetic issues as well as we can be stronger or weaker, but this can also count as a form of stressor. And it is known now that genes express or not, according to the nervous system!
 
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:
He was born crying and maybe more little than others? He might just have had a bad experience during gestation and/or birth! Then it is enough to not regulate as well as the others, and thus making it difficult to relate to another species from the beginning.  



I didn't think about birth trauma, that could be it.

His mother was only 8 months old and he was the first born puppy so yes, it could have been a tight fit through the birth canal. Her labor wasn't long though, I was surprised when I heard her "grunt" and then discovered she had given birth to this black puppy.  He cried steadily for the first few minutes and it was fairly loud. At the time I remember thinking  "Oh god, I hope the rest of them aren't like this" but the rest were quiet.

He was normal size though is mother is only a 23 lb dog and he is 60 lbs so obviously she bred with much larger males, not sure how that would affect birth size but he was not premature (a vet saw them the day after they were born).
 
Xisca Nicolas
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As you can see, trust what you see and hear! That is what body language is about: you can see the truth much better than what can be guessed from knowing the story of a person or an animal. And sometimes we do not know the story. But still, we can see the signals, and it is obvious with this dog, as you notice that he shows more signals than others.

You will never know what happened, as he can also have been compressed too long time, or something with the ombilic cord. It just seem that something created some pain. Size at birth is not relyable when fathers are different, or parents not the same size/breed. But I have noticed very often that the smallest are more noisy from the beginning! Then some have collapsed into too much fear, and others have kept enough energy to be fighters and energical. They can conquere the world.... Oh also about the first ones... the mother is less available, because still in the process of "latching" the next ones! They can also be stepped upon when she turns around in the nest. All that is traumatic will depend on the recovery through close contact and care. At what moment they can be quiet and drinking milk after birth is also impacting.

Some dogs show not enough signals to others, and they are not that good for relating to others sometimes, because they also read and considere others' signals much less!
The breeds that show more signals are often the primitive ones, wolf type. Labradors show much less and often disrespect others' signals. It seems that they say "Why are you not at ease with me, look how much of a good boy I am!" And this is typically a human's mistake too! When we have good intentions, we tend to override the message a shy dog will give, because we feel that we can convince them we are "good"! But the truth is that we need to respect the messages and "do not take it personally". The ANS is much slower to shift in some individuals than others, and the fast ones have to take patience, and also not misjudge the ones who have a slower rythm.

Dog signs are made for this, indicate what is going on, so that the relationship can flow.

I remember my dog trying to invite another one into her sphere, and the dog was super afraid and lost after coming out of the car where he was sick. His eyes were not focussing and the pupilla was big. The one that was at ease kept approaching and going away to show respect. All the body language was friendly, but never pushy. The distance was calculated according to the other's reaction. Then happened a few shifts as the dog started to snif around a bit more, and was actually landing.

But what was extraordinary, and all this would have diserved a video, was when the calm dog decided to run and meet the second one WHEN THE RIGHT SIGN WAS NOT EVEN FINISHED! But when he arrived nearby, the dog actually DID connect! The sign that he showed was SHAKING his skin, which takes a few seconds. At the moment he started to shake, the nice and wise dog got a super smile and seemed to think "Yeah, at least!  Now he is ok!" And 2 seconds later, the 2 dogs were looking at each other and both had their mouth open, you know when they nearly look like dolphins! And they started playing...
 
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John Paulding wrote:I read a book years ago about this. I forget the authors name but she came up with most of this. She actually learned it by observing one of her dogs that seemed to have the ability to get other dogs to get along together.

I just got a couple of LGDs and these things come in handy. They were evidently not treated all that well and spent quite a few days with their tail straight down. I was carrying a 2x4 one day and they both bolted. They're doing better now but it will take a while for them to get right. One might never be right but we'll keep trying. It's a bit nerve racking dealing with abused dogs that outweigh you.




I often worried about my LGD, but then one day we were in the barn and out of nowhere, she just laid down and wanted me to rub her belly. I did of course, and we have a great relationship.

She has always been a with-the-sheep dog, but at some point in her life must have been with a doting family because when I gave her, her Christmas present which was a raw hide bone, the second she saw it, she got super excited and was going crazy...to the point she did not eat but was running around the pasture, tossing the bone up in the air, and catching it.

But I never took the dog test. I do not read my dog, my dog reads me, and everything else around her. EVERYTHING in her life is dictated by what others do, which is why she is smart and cannot, should not be trained. She must think for herself to protect the sheep no matter what occurs...me, strangers, coyotes, etc. And she does her job well, because I do not interfere.



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Xisca Nicolas
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Some dogs that were not badly treated actually look as if they have been! The signs of low early socialisation look exactly the same! And the interpretation is usually that the dog has been treated badly / hurt. Not always and much less than we think.

It is the same as what Lucretia mentionned about her being sure she has not treated one pup differently than the others: there is more about it. Pups have as little time as wolf pups to get used to the world before they enter an age with fear touching them more, and they have to live in a much more difficult and complex world. So there are 2 things, the limited time of socialisation and not all that they need being covered at the ideal moment + all that happens to them that do not come from humans.

Same for training, we do train anyway even without knowing, and dogs are also as us: they self train! And they are also trained by the outside world and not only by us.

I remember a dog living with his master who worked in a petrol station... Who taugh him to bring his bone when a truck came in? not cars, only big trucks. I guess that it happened by chance once.... and the dog just noticed that he coud eat the bone marrow after the breaking!
 
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:Some dogs show not enough signals to others, and they are not that good for relating to others sometimes, because they also read and consider others' signals much less!



Very true. My Anatolian is like that, even when he is stressed (i.e. at the vets) he shows VERY little other than maybe a lowered tail.

Part of it could be that unlike the police dog who tried very hard to "be good" and not become aggressive when he was feeling trapped and stressed, the Anatolian doesn't have that internal conflict or inhibition. If someone is bothering him he just makes them stop with a sudden bite or an outburst of sudden growling/snapping.

Though when a dog gives a "blank look" it is very intimidating to me if I am approaching them. Sometimes they can be terrified and look blank, other times they are very dominant and don't feel the need to tell you what the boundary lines are, and still others don't care whether you touch them or not.

Xisca Nicolas wrote:Some dogs that were not badly treated actually look as if they have been! The signs of low early socialization look exactly the same! And the interpretation is usually that the dog has been treated badly / hurt. Not always and much less than we think.



Very true. Though when you live with those dogs it usually becomes obvious as to whether they were actually abused or just not socialized enough.

Two ways that I have found is when "collisions" occur. In multiple dog households you will occasionally run into them and sometimes with a lot of impact, a dog that has been abused will react with fear and wonder if you tried to hurt them intentionally. Dogs that have not been abused either don't notice it at all, or have no strong reaction. I always pet them and talk nicely to them so they know it was not intentional.

The other way is the broom test(after the dog knows/trusts you, I have never done this with a brand new rescue dog). If you can sweep around them or even waive a broom slowly over their head and they just look at you like "Whatcha doing?" then they likely were never physically abused.
 
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Yep, a lot of guard dogs like your Anatolian ...just climb up the ladder and skip all steps! That is exactly why I said at the beginning that I did not like the ladder image, because it can make people think it is all the time like this.

The lack of inhibition is at ANS level, a lack of the social engagement system. There a 2 types of beings: the ones I know, and the others. Social engagement is good only with one type, you guess which one...

Then they are also dogs that freeze easily, so their signals are easy to see: they tense and get more immobile. When I see this, I do not like it! Because some stay in the freeze and inhibited state, and others might come out of it, with a surge of the sympathetic system, and that usually means snap or bite. The ones that stay inhibited are the ones who do not seem to care if you touch them. The difference with the dog that is at ease is in the obvious desire or not to socially engage. Newbies to dogs, and also some others, can tend to think that they only need to ask the owner if the dog is dangerous or nice. When you know dogs, you just ask the dog! But you do not ask if it is safe for you.... you ask if the dog AGREES! It is so easy to invite a dog by doing half of the movement forward and wait for a sign that it is ok to go on! In that case the dog will do another part of the way to touch. Well, some dogs are also "badly educated" haha, and do not ask you and just jump on you! Well, some dogs do that, and some people also do that! In both cases, it does not always work!

Yes you are right that some signs can show that a dog was physically abused, and how. But also, some dogs who need to see new things from a distance and get used slowly because they saw not enough different things as puppies, can be afraid by something they have never seen. When it is not an abuse, you will see this when it is windy! Hanging clothes that can move alone, running plastic bags...

I have a story of a dog that was abused only in a specific situation, which was to push him competing while skying. He was sold from abroad and got several owners because nobody could make him gallop, though he had a prestigeous winning palmares. He would sometimes, and then would block and become closed and only trot. The sport I talk about is the scandinavian ski-pulka.

I ran with him several times and solved the problem, until it returned in a special condition that made it all clear! I keep the suspense and do not tell now.... The first time, well I could hardly follow him and he was quite happy to run. There was a big slope downward and I felled. The dog stopped and went half his size. He was so pityful that I burst into laugh. I asked him what was going on, and if he had ever seen a fall! As I knew he went only with top level people... Ok, he had never seen this. When he saw my reaction, he went up at 110% of his size and I still remember his big smile! I felled down several more times on the way, and each time he was less afraid, and he was even laughing at me! Yes he was.... He was looking at me like "are you ready" and waited I could go before starting. Eventually the hook went off and he went running alone, having great fun, though the other runners no! He passed the line alone, and I passed alone later.... much later of course... The next day I was allowed to run but attached. We had great fun.

Then there was a race where I blew all the times, as I got even ahead all men! There was a difficult slope uphill, and I was such a weight that he nearly felt backward in surprise. He sighed - I think - and went walking quietly.... I thought I was never going to make it uphill! Spontaneously I called him and said "please help me!". I believe it only because i saw it, or else i would not: He gathered himself and started to pull as mad. I made each time more effort, until I could ski as if on a flat surface! By the way, I still have a tendinitis where both biceps attach...

Then I got the dog for a night race. I dont remember what I did that also had to do with the sticks, but the dog shut down as he was known to do, and that is when I understood. There was a lot of public at this place. I think the path was not well indicated and I had to drag him to go back to the right track. I was also tired. He went on trotting until the finish line. He knew that he could do whatever he wanted when there were people around, because his first owner could not beat him then. So he was making profit to say "F*** off". If i could go back, instead of going on and encouraging him with my voice, I would stop, though it would have mean to be cold. After 30 years this is all I remember about him and the story!
 
Lucrecia Anderson
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:
The lack of inhibition is at ANS level, a lack of the social engagement system. There a 2 types of beings: the ones I know, and the others. Social engagement is good only with one type, you guess which one...  



This is great information. It explains what I have seen but didn't quite understand.

When I said some dogs look "blank", they may be terrified, or they may not care if you touch them etc... I meant the ones that "don't care if you touch them" are not afraid or otherwise upset, they just give strangers a completely blank look and don't engage at all even when you speak with them, kneel down to their level etc... They look at you as if you are not important enough to engage with (because based on what you said, we aren't important enough!).

Two times I recall it happening involved what were surely very confident/dominant mature male dogs out with their male owners. In once case it was a guy with two male Cane Corsos, and in another case it was a large red male hound being shown while the owner tried to sell some puppies. The dogs didn't acknowledge or engage with me at all, I did pet the hunting dog but he still didn't react. The Cane Corso's were wearing really stunning leather collars and their owner was telling me where I could buy some, eventually I reached down and felt the collar around one of the dog's neck and the dog still didn't react at all (though I am sure if I did something that the dog didn't like he would have reacted!).

Now that you explained it I realize it was just a total lack of their "social engagement system". Course I see a "blank look" and realize it does not mean the dog is fine with being groped, but sadly too many others don't realize it especially if they are used to dogs that will pull away or otherwise react if they don't want to be touched.

And one of my own dogs (besides the Anatolian) has displayed what may be a similar thing. He is a hunting Coon hound that showed up lost a few years ago. The first year or so he was quite a handful and a great deal of the time he would be sniffing and off in his "own world" much of the time. Not just busy and pretending he didn't hear me, but instead in a totally different zone as if he was totally unaware of me. Then he would pop out of it and be social.  I have had him about 4 years now and he he has changed dramatically, he is very social and engaged 90% of the time these days (even when he doesn't want to listen to me, he still hears me like the other dogs).  I am pretty sure he was a kenneled hunting dog with very little social interaction in his previous life, after living in a household with other dogs and a human for a few years his brain has been rewired and his "social engagement system" is on virtually all the time now (unless he slips out of the fence and can run free in the surrounding woods).
 
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