Here’s a little dog body language study.
My dear Zani shows a lot of emotion, which means she is a good dog to observe. She is pretty easy to read and can teach us a lot.
The short video below consists of two quick clips taken less than two minutes apart. In one clip, Zani is afraid, and in the other, she is having a good time.
I reversed the order in the video from what happened in real life. We had been on a walk and things were going fine. But a neighbor drove up and backed their car into their driveway. We had to stop and wait, and she started staring at the car like it was a monster. She has never been scared of cars before, but she was then. I don’t know why. There may have been another factor. Anyway, I took the “scared” video immediately after we saw the car. The “happy and engaged” video was from a minute or two before the car came by. I had just filmed her to show a friend what a good time she was having on her walk. Darn.
Body Language Aspects to Observe
Here are some things you can compare between the two clips
- Head carriage
- Ear carriage
- Tail carriage
- The shape of her back and spine
- Gait and speed
- What she is paying attention to
Her gait and head carriage are a bit abnormal because of her previous spinal cord injury. You can actually see the abnormality more in the “happy” clip.
I have her leash attached to a collar rather than a harness for a combination of reasons I won’t get into here. It’s our best choice for now. I make it my job, not her job, to be sure the leash never gets tight.
The terms “engaged” and “engagement” are often used to mean that a dog is focused on and partnering with her trainer. But in the part of the video where Zani is feeling good, she is engaging with the environment. That’s OK with me. She has been deprived of a lot of outdoor enrichment since her accident. My goals when I take her on a walk these days are to let her smell and otherwise interact with the environment, and to keep her from getting scared. I do reinforce check-ins. Why not have the option of some nice food on a walk as well!
Finally, although she was definitely scared, her response was about a 4 out of 10 on the Zani fear scale. Thank goodness we don’t see those higher numbers often anymore. In this situation, she could still respond to me and move, and willingly walked home with me. She wasn’t trembling. When she gets more severely afraid, she generally trembles and freezes. For comparison, here’s a photo that’s 9/10 on the fear scale.
And because I don’t want to end the post with that photo, here’s a cute one of her in the yard.
How does her body language look there?
Feel free to post your observations of the video or any of the photos in the comments.
Copyright 2018 Eileen Anderson