eileenanddogs

Tag: agonistic behaviors

Dog Body Language Study: Intruder in the Yard!

Dog Body Language Study: Intruder in the Yard!

Zani advancing
What is Zani so wary of?

My little dog Zani has so much personality, but it is rare for me to capture her feisty side on camera. She is almost certainly a hound/terrier mix. She has the softness and sensitivity of some small hounds, and can dole out appeasement signals as well as any beagle. I’ve shown her fearful side. But she is also a tough cookie. She holds her own in a household with two bigger dogs. She chases (and yes, kills) small animals. She tells me off sometimes. So when she was alone in the yard, alarm barking but not advancing on whatever was bothering her, I grabbed the camera. I knew it would be interesting.

The “not advancing” part was what clued me that this was something different. If there had been any sort of animal or human in the yard or close by, she would have moved forward with less hesitation. This was some other kind of threat.

(I was glad I had my camera ready a few years after this post when she again noticed something visually amiss. I think you’ll enjoy the comparison. In the 2019 incident, she is similarly wary but also in a more predatory mode, and her tail never stops wagging.)

It would be easy to make light of what it turned out to be. But you know, my little dog is brave. She weighs all of 19 pounds. It’s true that she didn’t start to approach the monster until I offered to go along, but she led the way. I do wish I could have had a view of her from the front. There is a section in the video where her body language gets a bit scary looking. It starts at about 0:46. I would get out of the way of any dog who was advancing towards me in that manner.

The other amazing thing to me is how fast she piloerects–and then how fast the fur goes down again when she determines that all is well. Here’s a nice piece by Karen London on Piloerection–do you think Zani counts as “confident” according to her observations? Thanks to Julie Hecht for a mini-discussion about this too.

I hope you enjoy watching this as much as I did. There’s so much more to observe than what I noted in the video.

How about your dogs? What scary things have they conquered?

Related Posts and Pages (featuring the adorable Zani)

© Eileen Anderson 2015                                                                                                                               eileenanddogs.com

Contest! The Faces of Summer

Contest! The Faces of Summer

Summer with bedroom eyes
Summer with bedroom eyes

Just the other day I told a friend that I would never have a contest on my FaceBook page or here on the blog. It’s always presented as one of the number one ways to get people to Like, read, or visit your site. It seemed so tacky and pandering to do that just to get readers. I always figured that if I wanted readers (and I do, I do!), it was my job to be interesting, informative, or at least entertaining.

I still think that, but then something happened. I’ve been collecting photos of Summer’s face in different situations for a while, since she is so very expressive. I made them all into a gallery, and made a list of all the descriptions of the situations. I thought I’d ask readers if they could match them up.

Oops, it’s a contest! So I decided to go with it. So put on your observer hat and get ready to apply what you know!

Rules are below. The three top scorers (see rules below) will get their choice of either a print copy (not e-book)  of Alexandra Horowitz’ “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know” or Grey Stafford’s “Zoomility,” mailed directly to them from DogWise.

Photos

Descriptions

Here are the descriptions for the photos, in random order.

  • First time she saw a TV
  • In costume
  • Looking for a varmint (squirrel, rat, possum, or turtle) (see comments for clarification)
  • Looking for a varmint (squirrel, rat, possum, or turtle)  (see comments for clarification)
  • Looking for a varmint (squirrel, rat, possum, or turtle)  (see comments for clarification)
  • Found a varmint (squirrel, rat, possum, or turtle)  (see comments for clarification)
  • Found a varmint (squirrel, rat, possum, or turtle)  (see comments for clarification)
  • After a varmint hunt
  • Sitting uncomfortably close to another dog
  • Has been fussed at
  • Late in day at agility trial
  • At the agility field
  • Watching petals float through the air
  • My mom has her arm around her
  • Playing with Zani
  • Playing with Zani
  • Guarding a Nylabone
  • Being held in my arms
  • During a thunderstorm
  • During a thunderstorm
  • Home from vet after serious illness
  • Asking to train
  • Doing agility sequence
  • Just a photoshoot in the back yard
  • On a road trip in hot weather
  • Waiting to check the back yard
  • Immediately after fence fight with new neighbor dog
  • On a fun outing
  • On a fun outing
  • At the fairgrounds on her mat at a dog show
  • Being petted

Don’t be daunted that there are so many! Give it a try even if you can guess only a few. If it’s so hard, it could be that someone who only gets half of them right could win.

How to Enter

To enter the contest, copy the above list into an email and put the number of the photo next to each description. Title the email “Contest Entry.” Email it to the name of this blog  @att.net. Got that? eileenanddogs at the domain name in the previous sentence. Please include your name in your email. If you have trouble with the email address, send me a message using the sidebar of the blog. I will acknowledge all entries, so if you don’t get an email back from me within 24 hours, try it again.

Rules

  • Please enter only once. (In the event that I have made some kind of error that affects your choice and it is discovered after you have entered, you may amend your entry pertaining to that issue.)
  • For the exact same descriptions that apply to multiple photos (mostly having to do with varmints), it doesn’t matter in what order you attach the photo numbers to the descriptions.
  • Please do not submit your entry  in the comments section of the blog (I will unpublish it if anybody forgets).
  • It’s OK to have discussions of the photos with each other in the blog comments, or on my FaceBook page, or anywhere. Just don’t post your list.
  • Check back in the comments and/or my FaceBook page in case I need to make any interim announcements. I will make the announcements both places.
  • The three winners will be the people who get all 31 right the fastest. Or failing anyone getting all 31 right the winners will be determined by who got the most right, and in the case of a tie, who got that number right first.
  • If you want to guess just for the glory of it and don’t want a prize, please say “decline prize” in your entry email.
  • If you don’t want your name announced if you win, please say so in your entry email.
  • I will notify winners by email as well as by announcing on the blog. At that time I’ll ask privately for your mailing address.
  • Deadline is 12:00 midnight on Thursday, January 31st, 2013, at Central Standard Time (Central Standard Time is GMT minus 6 hours).
  • I will announce the winners during the first weekend of February and publish the answers. I’ll publish the uncropped photos, with some commentary, sometime after that.

I hope this was fun!

Coming up soon:

Dog/Dog Resource Guarding in Slow Motion

Dog/Dog Resource Guarding in Slow Motion

Clara guarding the sprinkler

Before completing it, I showed the  movie featured in this post to two different training buddies and both responded with questions. Is it really resource guarding if the dogs don’t escalate to violence or obvious threats? How come the “winner” in the interaction is throwing stress signals right along with the other dog? I thought we were talking about aggression; how do we know this particular interaction is resource guarding? Isn’t Clara just giving play invitations sometimes? I don’t know the answers.  I think these are great questions and also inevitable when we are trying to discuss dog communication and body language in real life.

What the interactions in the movie have in common is that they all show two dogs who appear to want the same thing. The dogs communicate rapidly with body language, and one dog keeps control of the thing. There is usually a definite assertion of ownership by the guarding dog, but both dogs may also exhibit other types of body language.

Defining Resource Guarding

Jean Donaldson defines resource guarding in her excellent book, “Mine!”, as

Dogs behaving aggressively when in possession of (and sometimes to gain possession of) food, toys, bones, their owners, their resting spots and crates.

— “Mine!” p. 6

She goes on to describe ritualized aggression, where an animal behaves in truncated versions of more serious or violent behaviors. The truncated versions allow animals including humans to indicate intent but avoid bloodshed. Some of the behaviors that Donaldson categorizes under that include:

…hard stares, growling, snarling, snapping and biting without maiming force…

— “Mine!” p. 3

She describes these ritualized aggressive behaviors as:

 …the “legal” conflict resolution behaviors in dog society.

— “Mine!” p. 3

Donaldson’s book is a how-to manual on dealing with dogs who resource guard items from humans. She uses protocols of desensitization and counter conditioning to change the dog’s emotional response to a human approaching when the dog has a valued item. She makes the point that guarding is a natural behavior tied to survival, and common among dogs in a group.

There is plenty of online information on resource guarding. I like the definition of resource guarding in this blog post as well as the comprehensive list of dog behaviors that could fall under that heading.

Also, I highly recommend the FaceBook Group: Observation skills for training dogs. This group is great for anyone who wants to hone their observation skills. Members post videos, their own or others found online, and the behaviors in the videos are described and discussed. The group has a very smart guideline: the participants are asked to practice using descriptive words to describe observed behaviors and THEN (emphasis mine) attempt to interpret the behaviors they see. We humans tend to skip right to what we think the motivations of the behavior are, rather than first observing and describing what is happening. This is a great place to learn about both. I got some nice comments and encouragement there for an early draft of my movie.

Guarding against Humans

I am fortunate that none of my dogs currently resource guards items from me. This is a combination of luck with Summer and Zani, and deliberate training with Clara. Because of her feral history, Clara has abundant, strong survival behaviors. (Translation: she is very pushy.) So I made a special effort to head off potential resource guarding against me when she was a baby. This is a good idea with any puppy or new dog.

Notice I said my dogs don’t currently resource guard against me. Here’s a photo from many years ago of Cricket with a rawhide chewy. Enough said.

Small tri color terrier holding a rawhide chewy between her paws and showing "whale eye"
Cricket is ready to defend her rawhide chewy

Is it Resource Guarding or a “Discussion”?

My movie shows my dogs having “discussions” about objects and places they want to have control of. The resource guarding behaviors are mostly on the very low end of ritualized aggression, which to me is a very good thing. They are working things out without coming very close to harming each other.

In addition to the hard stares, growling, and snapping that Donaldson mentions, my dogs perform several other more subtle behaviors that I would also classify as resource guarding and these are shown in the movie. They include moving forward into the other dog’s space, standing with a stiff, straight stance, muzzle feint (my name for a mouth closed muzzle punch without contact), and even intrusive sniffing and licking.

I agree with my friends that there is a lot of different stuff going on in the movie. Clara rarely looks very stressed. At times her guarding behaviors resemble (and could be) invitations to play. In Summer’s “successful” guarding of her toy in the last interaction, she darts a furtive glance and a lip lick towards Clara, who seems to be considering stealing her toy. This does not seem to be very assertive behavior. Perhaps Summer lucked out that time, but still, the outcome of the interaction was that she got to keep her toy.

What else do you see?

Final Note

I am fortunate at the low level of aggression my dogs show. I don’t mean to minimize the real dangers that resource guarding behaviors can pose, and of course I don’t encourage them. These clips were taken over several years. I take habitual precautions: supervising heavily when valued toys are available, intervening when someone (ahem Clara) is being a jerk, and separating all four of my dogs completely when I am not home.

Resource guarding can be a very serious problem. I hope if any of you have a dog who has started guarding things from you, you can get access to an experienced trainer or behaviorist.

Discussions coming soon:

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