Category Archives: dog behavior

How Dogs Interpret Human Body Language

body language quinnBy Langley Cornwell

We all know how powerful a dog’s sense of smell is. In fact, smell is a dog’s primary sense; they interpret the world predominately through their olfactory system while humans interpret the world predominately through our visual system. Even so, both humans and dogs use senses to understand what’s going on around them. But did you know that, just like humans, dogs rely on more than just their senses to figure things out? Dogs are experts at reading body language, and not just each other’s. In the same way that humans have learned to read canine body language, dogs can read human body language. Our movements, posture and even our glances tell our canine companions a lot about what we are thinking and feeling.

Have you ever glanced over at your dog’s leash? If your dog sees you look at his leash, what does he do? My dogs jump up and run to the door, ready to go on a walk. I used to think their reaction was based on the time of day, because we usually keep a pretty regular walk schedule. To rule that out, I looked at the leash random times and got the same reaction. Because I didn’t say the tell-tale “w” word, I knew they were not reacting to my verbal cue. And because it was at an unusual time, I knew they were not reacting to a specific time of day. No. They were reading my body language!

Social Cognition

Social cognition is a popular field of study, and research into a dog’s ability to pick up on human behavior signals is thriving. It’s long been understood that most social mammals are adept at reading cues from members of their same species, but the study of social cognition recognizes that dogs are amazingly good at reading human body language. A dog’s social cognition crosses species type.

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5 Strange Behaviors of Dogs

strange behave aineBy Linda Cole

Dogs see the world from their own unique perspective and do things based on instinct. To canines, it’s perfectly natural to search the trash for an interesting tidbit, or chase the neighborhood cat that dares to enter their domain. Dogs instinctively know it’s wise to circle before lying down even though their bed is inside away from biting insects. Some of the things dogs do seem odd to us, though. Here are five strange behaviors of dogs and why they do them.

Kicks Leg When Scratched

Your dog is relaxing on his back and you scratch what you think is a “sweet spot” on his belly. He immediately responds by kicking his leg in the air. Some dogs react when their lower chest or upper area of the back leg is scratched. You didn’t really find a sweet spot, but you did hit a nerve and his rapid kicks are involuntary. It’s the same reaction we have when the doctor taps our knee with a rubber mallet to check our reflex. In fact, a vet may check a dog’s scratch reflex to determine if the dog is dealing with a neurological concern.

You can tell if your dog enjoys being scratched by watching his body language. If he’s relaxed and lying on his back with his tongue dangling from his opened mouth, he’s probably OK with it. But if his legs are stiff, his mouth is closed, his ears are flattened and he shows signs of wanting to move – he is likely saying “stop doing that.” Think about it this way – if your doctor kept hitting your knee over and over with his hammer to activate your reflex, would you enjoy it?

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How to Correct Frustration, Demand and Boredom Barking

barking lianneBy Linda Cole

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. Some breeds, like hounds and herding dogs, were bred to vocalize when prey is sighted or when working with livestock. Barking is one way that canines communicate, but we don’t always understand what they are trying to say. Frustration barking, demand barking and boredom barking are three common issues that dog owners face. I’ll offer solutions for those barking problems in this post, and I’ll cover four additional types of barking problems in a follow-up post.

Frustration Barking

Any kind of barrier (window, fence, baby gate, etc.) that keeps a dog confined and restricts his movement can be extremely frustrating for some canines. In their eyes, not being able to chase a rabbit they see through the confines of a dog pen or a window isn’t right. Frustration barking is an excited, insistent bark. A stressed-out dog, or one confused about what you want him to do, can also bark to vocalize his frustration.

How to correct – Changing your dog’s behavior takes time, lots of patience, committed dedication, and plenty of his favorite CANIDAE treats. Yelling won’t stop barking and only increases the excitement of his voice. You have to physically get up and go to your dog, unless he’s a champ at coming when called – especially when distracted. If he understands the “watch me” or “look at me” commands, use a treat to get his attention. Once he’s distracted, engage him in some playtime to give the source of his frustration time to pass by.

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Why Puppies Steal Things, and How to Get Them to Stop

By Langley Cornwell

Puppies love to be the center of attention and will do anything they can to engage you in consistent interaction. Some of the things they do are charming and endearing, and other things can be downright exasperating. It’s a good thing they are so darn cute! And their breath…don’t get me started on puppy breath.

Why Puppies Steal Things

Oh, sorry, back to the subject at hand. So, why do puppies steal things? You guessed it: to get your attention. That, and to lure you into playing with them. Puppies are naturally naughty – in a playful way. They like to get something of yours and sneak it away when you aren’t looking in the hopes that you’ll chase them around and try to get it from them. This little game is big fun for a puppy.

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Can Dogs Recognize an Angry or Happy Human Face?

dogs recognizeBy Linda Cole

We can usually tell what kind of mood a person is in by observing their body language, facial expression and tone of voice. It’s an ability only seen in humans and one other species – dogs. But do canines know when we are happy or angry just by looking at our face? According to a new study, the answer is yes; your dog knows if you are giving them a smile or a frown!

Researchers in Vienna, Austria put 11 dogs through a series of tests to see if canines can recognize a happy or angry face by looking at images. The dogs were never shown the entire face of the person, and could only see either the top half of the face or the lower half. They could only make their decision by viewing the person’s eyes or mouth.

To begin the study, each dog was trained to correctly pick out images of the same person with either a happy or angry face. The group of dogs included a Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Fox Terrier, Border Collies and mixed breed dogs. Half of the dogs received a reward for picking out a happy face, and the other half had to pick out the angry face to earn their reward. To make their picks, each dog had to tap the correct image on a computer screen with their nose. A correct tap sent a treat down a tube to the dog.

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How Dogs Use Their Paws to Communicate

dog paw larkynBy Laurie Darroch

Dogs have many non-verbal ways of communicating with us, including the use of paws to get a message across to their human companions or even to other animals. Paws are much more than merely the part of their body used to walk on; their use has an individual language all its own. We just need to learn how to understand that method of communication.

Pay Attention to Me!

Dogs are much like small children. Sometimes they simply need our attention for a myriad of reasons ranging from wanting some play time or affection, to letting you know they want some one on one time. Dogs like to be included in whatever is going on. How many times have you seen a child tugging on her mom’s clothing or poking her to get attention? It is the same for your dogs. They use their paws to say “Here I am! Pay attention to me!”

I’m Sorry

If you’ve ever had to scold your dog or put them in time out for bad behavior, the reprimand is often followed by some sort of apology. There might be suddenly contrite behavior or even calmly placing a paw on your arm, lap or leg immediately following the scolding. They are trying to say “I’m sorry” in their own way. Dogs follow their instincts and may become rascals when temptation is too much. They sense when they have behaved badly by reading your body language and hearing the tone of your voice, but also by training. It is hard to resist that plaintive look accompanied by a gentle paw placed on you. They are asking for reassurance when they paw you after they have been bad.

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