Our dogs have a limited number of ways to communicate with us. They generally start with body language, but we often have trouble interpreting this. Take the time to consider what your dog is trying to communicate before making assumptions. Here is an example.
I am at the dog park and I call my dog to come to me. She starts to move toward me slowly, looking away slightly. About halfway to me, she stops and sniffs the ground. My dog is blowing me off, right? She doesn't want to leave the park so she's telling me she doesn't want to come to me. Great! I know what my dog is saying, right?
Wrong! Here are just a few of the other possible meanings behind her body language:
1 - My dog started towards me, but there is another dog in her path. She will need to cross through his "space" to some to me so she is using slow movements, a look away, and the sniffing to tell him that she simply wants to pass through peacefully and is not intending to invade his space or challenge him for the ball he has. She's negotiating space to try to get to me.
2 - My dog has started towards me somewhat slowly because she's unsure of what I want. She has heard me use the word Come before, but it is always in the house, near her food bowl, and I always have her food in my hands. Dogs don't generalize the same way we do, so she's working it out. I stiffen and my body language changes as I get angry at her for not listening to me, not realizing that I haven't proofed the command sufficiently to use it at the dog park. She responds to this by sending me calming signals - the look away and the sniffing.
3 - I have called my dog to come to me, but there is a large man with a beard standing behind me. Because she rarely interacts with men - especially men with beards - this is making her nervous. She is sending calming signals to him while trying to respond to the cue I've given her.
And that's just three examples of one set of body language signals. There are endless ways for us to mess this up. What's a girl to do, then? Learn all that you can about canine body language (it's fascinating stuff when you get into it!) and stop to think twice before jumping to conclusions about the meaning of your dog's body language.
Cara, Austin Dog Trainer