Body language (3)

I feel like writing another dogtorial. So this is body language part 3. In the first two parts I described what the position of our ears tell about our state of mind. This time I will focus on the tail. We canines have all kinds of tails: short, long, furry, fluffy or slick like a whip. I personally prefer my own tail, which is in between furry and sleek. Just right!

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The way we hold our tail tells a lot about our mood. There are three basic positions:

1. Alert and tense: our tail is high into the air. It can move (which means we are excited) or be very still (which means we are focussed). Some humans call this dominant, but I already wrote that dominance is a misconception. It is not dominant.

Dogs who feel very sure of themselves usually hold their tail high up in the air. When two dogs of this kind meet, their tails are going even higher. There is a reason for this: when we hold our tails high, we smell stronger. From behind. And a dog that is smelling strongly tells the world HERE I AM SHOW SOME RESPECT MAN. Something like that.

Tail high

When two dogs meet with their tails high up in the air, they usually end up measuring forces. Which is fine. It is not fighting, that is something entirely different.

2. Fear: dogs who are unsure or scared hold their tail tightly between their legs, pushing it towards their belly. This is about scent, too: when you do this, you limit the way you smell from behind. That is exactly what you want when you are scared. A strong smell will tell everybody that you are there. It makes you look bold. When you want to be shy, you hide your smell. It may seem simple, but for us dogs it works perfectly.

3. Relaxed. This looks like:

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There are a lot of positions in between these three. I for instance have a position in between relaxed and alert:

Little fish!

There are dogs that have very odd tails. Some have no tail at all, only a short stub. Something horrible must have happened to them to have a tail like that! Anyway, even then you can read their mood. They press the stub downwards when they feel scared and stick it high up in the air when they are alert.

Some dogs are bred with tails in an odd position. Some have their tails in a curl high up their back, which makes them look alert when in fact they are relaxed. You have to take this into consideration when you want to read our tails. Although even dogs who are bred with tails in curls on their back can very well push their tails between their legs. I know from experience: in our puppy class there was a cocksure maltese. He was only three months old and thinking he was the pack leader. Of course I could not let that happen, as the senior dog in the group (I was five months old at that time). So I disciplined him. His tail went right between his legs. After that we became friends.

Yoghurt

I am still a bit sad, because M is not back home. But P is taking good care of me. He gave me yoghurt! I am a great lover of yoghurt – of Greek yogurt, that is. Of course, I come from Greece!

It is thick and creamy. M and P like it themselves and when they have eaten to their full, they give me the carton. It is a good thing my nose is very long, so I can reach the bottom of the carton and eat all the yoghurt that is left inside.

Greek yoghurt

This usually means that after I finish the yoghurt in the carton, there is still a considerable amount of it left on my nose. It is nice to get all of that into my belly as well, so I use my long tongue.

Sometimes I envy humans because their bodies are so differently build than ours, which enables them to do fab things. Like whistling. I tried to whistle too, believe me, but it was very hard. In fact, I couldn’t do it. But then there are things we dogs can do and humans cannot. Like emptying a narrow carton full of yoghurt right down to the bottom, with our tongue. Humans must envy us because of that.

A disaster

Something very bad happened to me. I did not see it coming and now I am confused and sad. What happened? M is gone. She packed her bag, she even packed hiking gear so I was expecting to go with her. But then she kissed P, patted me, took her stuff and left!

She left yesterday and I haven’t seen her since. I just can’t believe it. I am depressed.

Oh no

Who’s the boss?

One of the biggest misconceptions about humans and dogs is the ‘boss-idea’. The idea that in a human-canine-relationship the human should be the boss of the dog. If not, the dog will be the boss and this will cause a lot of trouble.

This is a ridiculous idea. It is simply not how things work and it causes a lot of trouble in the relationship between humans and dogs. That is why I will explain how it does work, in real life.

Dogs and humans have been living together for thousands of years. Not in a boss-subordinate hierarchy, but in a relationship based on mutual respect and the idea of working together. We use each others assets to obtain a mutual goal. Like food and safety. This requires a good cooperation and an understanding between dog and human. You can see how this works with dogs that really work with their human, like police dogs, herding and hunting dogs. The police officer is not the boss of the police dog and the police dog is not the boss of the police officer. They know each other thoroughly, they know each others strong points, needs and limits and they work with that. They work together, as a team.

Nowadays a lot of humans live together with dogs, but they do not work together. They walk their dog, usually not paying much attention to the dog. I see this a lot: the human is talking to another human or into this strange device they seem to carry with them all the time. The dog is sniffing the air and pulling the human on the leash to where he wants to go. There is no interaction whatsoever.

And that is where the trouble begins. Humans don’t seem to understand that they have to work with us, in order to have a good companion in us. They think we will not lie on the couch or jump over the fence or dig holes in the garden or whatever it is that they don’t like, just because they told us they don’t like that. So when we do, they’ll complain to other humans that their dog is not listening and they will probably hear that they “have to be the boss”.

But this is not how it works. Look at the tv-shows of Cesar Millan, the famous dog whisperer. A lot of humans seem to think that he is the guy who promotes the conception of a human being the boss and the dog the subordinate. But I see something else. The dogs he works with are usually bad mannered or downright crazy. He has to be clear with them from the start and that may seem bossy. He sometimes even pushes a dog to the ground, forcing him to be subordinate. Whenever I see this in his show, I look the other way. I think it is embarrassing for the dog, his friends will never take him serious again. If Mr. Millan would do that to me, I would certainly bite him. Happily, he hardly ever comes to Holland.

Anyway, when you see his show, take a better look at what he does after his so-called disciplining the dog: he starts working with them. And that makes sense.  He makes sure they get the exercise they need. He investigates their special needs and works with that – he lets them herd sheep, for instance. And what is very important: he really interacts with the dog, all his attention and focus is directed to the dog. That is what makes him a dog whisperer. The same applies to my personal trainer, the Dutch dog whisperer. She is there, she focusses on her dogs. She knows them and their needs and she works with them. You can see the result: we are a happy pack.

Nicoline and friends

So here’s the clue: you do not need to be a boss, but you have to build a relationship with your dog. When you have true focus and attention, you will receive the same from us. We will get to know each other and work together. Sometimes the human will tell the dog what to do and that is fine – this is a complicated world and following the human directions may keep you safe. Sometimes the human will depend on the dog, because we have certain abilities that humans have not. Like tracking down tasty bits of pizza. Or finding the best way to cross the ocean!

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Not every dog can be a police dog or a herding dog. But you can go out together and have Adventures. Enjoy the weather, enjoy being outdoors, have fun. Do games together. Forget about being boss. Be together. That is what makes a human-canine-relationship one of the most special relationships in the world.

Great weather!

The weather is great today: nice and sunny and warm. I am glad it is getting warmer, I like to feel the warmth of the sun on my fur. It makes me very relaxed.

Sun and sea

Today we walked to a new place – a place near the beach where we go a lot, but here I had never been before. It is a big stretch of concrete, a long way into the sea. Kind of a street in the water. There were lots of humans fishing and it smelled yummy. They did not give me any fish though, although I really gave my best look to convince them. Strange. When I was little I looked very cute, could this be changing now I am growing up? I hope not. I will make some extra effort in looking cute.

 

A three day hike

Last time I told you I was probably up to a new Adventure and I was right! We went on a three day hike. We started at our house and went to the sea. There was a thick mist which made the surroundings a bit mysterious for M and P. Not for me, I use my nose and ears as much as I use my eyes. I knew exactly where we were going.

Hike1

We went to the beach and I ran to keep myself warm – and because I was happy, because it looked like we were going on a long hike. M and P had these packs on their backs, which usually is good news. It means we are going to walk for hours. We had lunch at a beach club and then continued our hike through the dunes. The mist cleared and it became sunny.

Hike2

Then we went to the beach again. I ran some more, rolled in smelly sea food (no good for eating anymore, but fabulous for perfuming your body) and I met other dogs, whom I greeted politely.

Hike3

It became a bit tricky when the tide came in. I had to help P cross the ocean:

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Then we sat down again at another beach club and I finally could take a nap.

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While M and P enjoyed this. I don’t know what it is, but they drink it al lot so I guess they like it:

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After my nap we walked just a little further to our hotel. It was a cosy place, where I discovered that M and P had not taken my snoozebag with them, but some flimsy blanket to lie on. I was very disappointed when I found out. So I decided to snooze on the bed. I am not allowed on the bed, but when I keep my hind legs on the floor it is not really lying on the bed, is it?

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In the end, I did sleep on the flimsy blanket. Too bad. The next day, we started out on the beach again. I found a huge stick!

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Like the day before, we walked on the beach and in the dunes. It was nice, although a bit cold with a strong wind blowing from the sea.

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We went to a new place and stayed in a different hotel. This morning we started from there. It was nice and sunny.

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We went along the beach for a short while, then walked to the dunes and into the woods. I was off leash most of the time, so I could run and sniff around. I smelled rabbits and deer and cyclists.

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Then the landscape changed. There were more houses and traffic and noise and I knew we were entering a city. A nice city though, with lots of tasty fat ducks in the little canals.

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From there we took one of those swoooish things called trains and we went back home. It was amazing how fast we were home again. It was still there and I was lucky, because the sun was shining on my favorite chair. So I stretched my long legs and dozed in the sun, for the rest of the day. This was an Adventure.

Thrilled

M is packing. This is what I found, just now. It looks like we are up to a new Adventure.

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I always find it a bit unnerving when she starts packing, because it can mean two things:

1. She is going away and I am not. Needless to say I am not very pleased when this happens, although I usually go and stay with Nicoline when M and P are away. Staying with Nicoline is nice, but I prefer being with my own humans.

2. I am going with M and P. I must admit I do have mixed feelings when this happens. I like going with them, it is thrilling to have Adventures together. But it is also a bit stressful for a dog to explore new territories. M and P are happily walking along, while I have to do the guarding. It is a big responsibility, for a dog. Of course I am up to that, I am a trustworthy and ferocious bodyguard by nature. I will just have to be even more alert than I normally am. I do hope they’ll give me some extra food for that, because it costs a lot of energy.

What M is packing now, is hiking gear. Usually when she packs this, I go with her! I hope I will, this time, too. And that P is coming as well. I will tell you all about it when I know more!