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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday's Training TIP: Body Language

Watching dogs interact can be more entertaining than television (I know, that's not saying much). But, if you have more than one dog in your household, you know what I'm talking about.

Before Gus came home, there really wasn't much interaction between FLD Scout and my old mutt, Gypsy. Grouch that she is, Gypsy let Scout know (in no-uncertain-terms), "leave me alone!." Curled lip, guttural growl, and a few "air snaps" of her teeth were all it took for Scout to take heed.

But observing the behavior of dogs as they engage each other can also be a learning experience. Canines communicate a great deal just with body language!

Take a look at the communication going on between FLD Scout and Andy's daughter's two German Shorthair Pointers, Gauge and Odo, during a recent visit.

Gauge is a year younger than my Gypsy, and almost as grouchy! Here he is asserting his presence to Scout by putting his head over her. She "submits" to him by making herself smaller and lowering her head.

Gauge is crabbing at Scout, who has now taken a seated position. Notice she averts her eyes and is still "hunkering" down beneath him.

Scout hunkers down even further as Gauge is distracted by Gus, who offers a toy in play.

Gauge circles around Scout, still vocalizing. Scout moves her head in his direction and stays low.

Here Scout sits up a bit and tests the situation, turning her face toward Gauge. I wonder if she's thinking, "Awww, he's all talk!"

Whoops! Scout has second thoughts as Gauge pushes against her snout--she pulls her head back in defense. Gypsy watches from the other room.

Odo and Gus move into the discussion. Gauge gets distracted away from Scout, who now stands up. Gus rolls onto his back--he doesn't want any trouble!

Here's a blurry shot of Gus inviting Gauge to play. (He wasn't successful.)


Here are some signs to look for that might indicate your puppy is starting to get overwhelmed during a training session.
  • lip-licking
  • yawning
  • dropping the head
  • dandruff--this really isn't a behavior, but it can indicate stress
If you notice any of these in your puppy, go back to something your puppy knows well--and end your training session on a positive!

Spend some time might be surprised at what you can learn.


  1. I totally agree with you when you say watching the dogs play is better than TV :)

    with four dogs in the house, there is always some sort of excitement lol!

  2. This is all so interesting what you write about dogs and training. I have a Beagle, Nino, 2 1/2 years old; every week I participate in a training course with other persons and dogs, all different. I learnt a lot about my dog, its reactions in various circumstances, his determination and what I have to work on more and often. We both enjoy these moments a lot. Thanks for sharing your own experiences.

  3. Thanks! Training your dog is certainly rewarding--for you AND your dog! Thanks for reading and give Nino a scratch from us!