Last week I published four “deceptive” photos in A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words, But Are They the Right Ones? As promised, here are explanations and context for the photos.
#1 Zani doing “Whale Eye”
Below is the photo in context (it’s #3 of the 4). Zani had been looking at me, turned her head to look at something, and when she turned back to me, her eyes moved first. Sometimes “whale eye” just means the dog turned her head or her eyes alone. Click on a photo for a larger view.
Reader Diana had nailed it in the comments last week, by the way. Here are the “right words”:
Zani’s head, body and tail are all in alignment and tail is out. The whale eye results from looking without turning her whole body. Eyebrows are lifted but eyelids lack tension and pupils are not dilated. Ears lifted at base. Mouth is closed but not tightly.
Also note that in the two photos published here in which Zani is looking back at me (in the direction of the camera), her eyes and the muscles around them are very soft.
Here, for contrast, is a photo of Zani with whale eye when she is afraid. This picture is also featured in my post, “The Look of Fear,” where Zani’s fear response is discussed in detail. You can see whole clusters of fearful body language in the photos in that post, as opposed to the photo above that shows “whale eye” on an otherwise calm dog.
#2 Summer looking slightly crazed
This, of course, is not a seizure but a play photo. The uncropped version is below, along with a couple of others from the play session. It is from Zani’s first month in the household, and Summer and Zani played almost constantly in those early times. Summer’s play always has an edge to it, to my eyes, but I supervised very closely, and Zani kept going back for more. Summer and Zani have never had a fight.
Here is the photo uncropped, and two other stills from the video. Click on them for larger versions.
#3 Clara doing “whale eye”
Clara was in her crate in the car. She looked forward to see what I was doing, and couldn’t turn her head far enough. You can see how her neck is pushing on the bars, and her nose is in the very corner of the crate. She would have had to stand up to turn her head farther, and apparently didn’t think it was worth it. She is generally very relaxed in her car crate and sleeps much of the time.
#4 Pride being “naughty”
This, of course, is a highly trained behavior. Pride didn’t even lift his leg to pee in real life. The reason I include it is how his face looks in the photo. The set of his mouth and his narrowed eye with a tiny bit of white showing make him look, anthropomorphically speaking, rather sneaky or crafty. (Keep in mind that “guilty” looks are generally appeasement signs in dogs, and do not correlate with misdeeds.) And this isn’t even a guilty look, just a combination of circumstances.
Marge Rogers, who trained the behavior and took the photos, says it was luck and just one of those moments in time. Directly below is another photo from the session from comparison. In that photo you can see that Pride is clearly watching Marge and the camera attentively. I think perhaps both photos demonstrate the awesome eye contact Marge gets from her dogs.
In case you didn’t notice last time, Marge sets up these photos for her wonderful Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue Christmas cards.
So that’s “the rest of the story.” Thanks for reading!
- Invisible Cues
- How Skilled are You at Ignoring? (Extinction Part 2)
- Oh No, I Broke my Dog!
- More Training Errors: Cautionary Tales (I seem to have an abundance of these)
9 thoughts on “The Right Words, Revealed”
I really liked these posts! Thank you for reminding us that we have to look at the whole dog when reading body language and a snapshot does not reveal the whole story. 🙂
Thanks, Linda! The posts were fun to do. Someday I may make a whole page of these types of photos.
This article illustrates perfectly why email consults for behavior can not be ethical if you don’t have another professional actually working hands on with the dog and the email professional only functioning on a consulting basis. It is SO easy to misread, even video, if you don’t know the dog– the context of the dog’s life and that dog’s specific body language. 🙂 Great job Eileen as always!
Such a good point, Angelica, about email consults. I’ve never thought of that issue. Although I certainly understand the human temptation to “fill in the blanks” and think that we can know things long distance that we can’t possibly! Thanks for the encouragement, as always!
Yes, yes, yes! Nothing beats observation. A snap shot is exactly how you described, a moment in time without any context. Even a few seconds of video can be deceiving without history and context.
It sure can! It’s such a fine line….
Forgot to check “notify of follow-up comments” …carry on.
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