Last month, I attended a seminar presented by Sarah Kalnajs. I was really excited for it because I absolutely love her DVD The Language of Dogs, which is all about body language. Saturday's seminar presentation was basically an expanded version of the DVD (with bonus material on stress), except with lots of new footage. I have to say, Sarah is a genius at getting great video of dogs.
Sarah broke her presentation on body language down into five sections: signs of stress, anticipatory behaviors, cut-off or appeasement signals, distance increasing signals, and distance decreasing signals. Although I'm going to post about each section separately, it's important to keep in mind that body language does not happen this way. You may see body language from multiple categories at the same time, which makes sense since some categories go together neatly- signs of stress quite often accompany distance increasing signals, for example.
Regardless of category, you'll often see several different behaviors instead of just a single one. It's possible that a dog might be subtle with his body language, or that he might show conflicting signals, which is why it's important to take everything in context. Just because something can be a sign of stress (or appeasement, or anticipation, etc.), doesn't mean it is. Further, dogs don't go to seminars, so there will always be the odd dog that uses body language in ways that contradict what Sarah said. This doesn't mean she's wrong, it simply means that every dog is an individual, and as such, it's impossible to make broad generalizations that are correct 100% of the time.
I'm really looking forward to sharing this information with you. I know that the first time I saw Sarah's DVD, a whole new world opened up to me. I had no idea my dog was telling me so much. The more I learn, the more I am amazed by the subtleties to my dog's movements. And I know I'm missing a lot more than I catch. Still, I have been saving up a ton of photos of Maisy exhibiting various body language signals, so this series of posts promises to be awesome, informative, and adorable!
Here's a teaser photo to get you started. I absolutely love this photo in terms of body language. Look how beautifully the barely-eight-weeks-old Via communicates! (Too bad Maisy was kind of being a jerk, though.)