Monday, June 6, 2011

Sarah Kalnajs Seminar: Distance-Decreasing Signals

This is the last of our body language posts, and we get to end on a fun note! Distance-decreasing signals are like they suggest: the dog wants you (or whoever he's directing his signals at) to come closer! If you see a dog doing one of these things, he's probably safe to approach. Just remember that you need to take everything in context. If there are mixed signals, it's best to take things slowly and/or keep your distance.

As always, email me if you have a great shot of one of these- especially one I don't have a picture for. I'll post it here (with credit, of course!).

Play bows
The play bow happens when the dog's front end is lower than the back end, and typically the dog will be resting on its front legs. Compare the “stress stretch” in this entry with the play bows below:

Photo courtesy of Sara Reusche.

Easy Wagging Tails
Tails are so difficult to interpret since dogs tend to wag their tails regardless of how they feel. For example, a high, fast, stiff wag signals stress or a desire for you to stay away. The “easy wagging” tail, by contrast, will appear relaxed. Typically the tail set will be lower, although this is relative to the dog's natural tail set. On a dog like Maisy, her tail set changes only by a matter of degrees. Still, there are some things to look for. First, look for a tail that is wagging the entire body: that's generally a sign that the dog wants you closer. Another good sign is a circle or “helicopter” tail.

Submissive Grin
Sarah actually isn't a huge fan of the term “submissive” (and neither am I, truth be told), but she uses it for consistency's sake. A submissive grin says “I won't hurt you, and you can come closer.” It's a closed-mouth gesture with the front teeth showing, and usually the corners of the mouth are pulled back so you can see the back teeth, too.

Submissive Licking
Again with the term submissive- presented as such for consistency's sake. This is different from stressed lip-licking because it's a little lick to the side of the mouth instead of licking the front nose/lips area.

Relaxed Posture and Soft Eyes
A relaxed dog will have very little muscle tension, and wheras hard eyes are typically quite round, these are usually more oval-shaped.

Soft eyes, ears in a neutral position, and a gentle wag 
indicate that Maisy is relaxed and enjoying our interaction.


Ninso said...

I really need to get the Language of Dogs video, because now I am more confused than ever (and not because there was anything wrong with your posts)! I thought I was pretty good at reading dog language before this series. Now I'm not quite as confident. This series has inspired me to keep studying!

Sophie said...

The submissive licking thing is interesting - I've only ever heard of lip-licking as a stress signal, or of course after eating something delicious! This has been a really great, informative series of posts; thanks for sharing it all with us.