I made the video featured in this post for the sole purpose of recording how cute Clara is when I bring something new into the house. She is thrilled with novelty. But as usual, there was more to observe.
I bought a small rug to put in the den so the dogs don’t always have to be either on the concrete or on their individual mats, which are strong cues for certain behaviors. I wanted a little training space that had a better surface. (The last time I bought a rug was in 2011. Less than a month later I got an unexpected puppy, so that rug didn’t last very long. I must admit I hope that doesn’t happen again!)
Here’s a short summary of the dogs’ responses when I brought in the new rug and unwrapped it.
Clara lived up to my expectations. She was utterly delighted and charming. She nudged and bounced at me in her excitement and her tail never stopped as she checked things out thoroughly and attended my progress. Even though new people will never be her favorite thing, new anything else…you bet! In my book about living with a dog with dementia, I mention the enrichment possibilities of letting a dog sniff things you bring into the house. Clara is the one who taught me this, since she’s so obvious about it, but all my dogs enjoy it in their ways.
Summer was perfectly herself. The main issue for her wasn’t the new rug. It was the other dogs’ response to it. She dislikes any kind of high-energy behavior from them. She was content though to watch from her perch, removed from the fuss. Once the rug was down and the other dogs calmer, she happily jumped down and got on it.
Now this is interesting. Watch Zani in the movie and try to assess her attitude. Is she nervous? Scared? Her tail is down most of the time, at times almost pressed between her legs. Something I have learned over time is that Zani’s tail hangs low, and sometimes presses down, at times when it doesn’t necessarily indicate anxiety. Most stills of Zani I could take from this video would include body language that we associate with an unhappy dog. But Zani is interested and is not poised for flight. She moves around normally. The only part where I see her a bit worried is a momentary flinch around 1:09 when I lift the cardboard tube out of the rug.
I was first clued into this interesting behavior from Zani a few years back when someone posted in response to my Beginner Kongs movie. He said Zani was not a good example of a dog enjoying a food toy because she looked scared. It’s right at the beginning of that movie in case you want to check it out. He had a point–she is not the typical picture of enjoyment. At the time I theorized that hers was an anxious response to the camera. Only over time have I observed that she tucks her tail in several situations where she is not upset. These include while manipulating a food toy, when digging–a favorite activity–and frequently when exploring and sniffing. I have videos of these and one day will make a compilation. My working hypothesis is that it indicates a certain type of concentration. Just another step in my ongoing project of reading dogs better.
I would love to know if any of the rest of you observe anything similar to Zani’s behavior in your dogs. In the meantime, enjoy watching Clara!
Copyright Eileen Anderson 2o15