Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Saga of Blonde Boy

Blonde Boy is the Golden Retriever’s answer to a young Robert Redford. When we take him out people can’t keep their eyes off him. The beautiful boy knows it. He sits. He gives a canine happy face and wags his tail as people approach. He gives a “Waah” look of surprise when someone walks past without a hello or a pet.

Too cute to ignore sweetly demanding attention from all, he is well reinforced for this behavior.

The little darling grew up going almost everywhere with us. He is welcome at alfresco dining establishments. His manners are impeccable.

I’ve worked with a wide variety of breeds, but this is the first golden to live with me. He has a much softer temperament than the rotts and bullies. Soft and compliant, but I won’t say he lived to please.

He grew up in day care. His canine language skills were a sight to behold. He could bring out even the shyest of dogs. If ever a dog had a good life, this guy was in competition.

And then he was attacked. The wounds have healed, but he is not the same dog. His name is Shaker. I am going to tell you the story of this golden’s road to recovery.

Body Language Tells The Tail Discussion

Notice how her head position minimizes neck exposure.
Cheryl said: No. From the camera angle, it's hard to tell, but her neck is not held high or low. The front of her body is all about how she feels about Snow White. Could you explain more fully? I find it interesting how close her front paws are together. I've seen that in horses when they're not quite sure; may have been corrected about something, etc. It's not a balanced position.

Good observation. What you say about the narrow stance makes perfect sense. I wasn't sure what to make about it. Thanks.

Other photos I have of Bonita in stalk mode she has a wide front stance, so that probably is about Blondie. The head position shows intent. A post I'm working on has Bonita and Stormy warning off Toby with a similiar head position. They look like football players lining up to kick butt. God, I miss these guys.

Remember that Blondie had Bonita so terrorized that she wouldn’t move towards food when she was starving.
 I'm assuming that Blondie might not have had a nurturing mother or is her relationship with her daughter based more on "the strong will survive?" The female will survive and raise more puppies insuring that the animals will not die out.

My Jan/Feb posts talk about Blondie's mothering style. I think breeding and nurturing style of parent are the key players in how a mom treats her kids. For a while I thought scarcity of resources was the key, then I met a couple of moms who could rival any pampered pet as far as being sweet and concerned. So I don't know is my best answer. I do agree that Blondie and Stormy were not allowing Bonita to eat to insure their own survival.

By the way, when Blondie looked at me before she invited Snow to eat; I said, "Good girl". It was an extraordinary moment for us. I didn't think I needed to share that.

I differ. I realize animal body language is a whole new subject for some as well as your reporting the interactions, the life they live, etc. The photos are a moment in time. The body is, let's say, the last word on the subject or situation. It's the end result of a thought process, EMOTION (feelings), whatever that comes through the neurological system. Previous to what we're seeing, change could have been a little as a whisker twitch-- tighter lips. What we couldn't see, hear or visualize(?) is the nonverbal aspect at the beginning.

Now getting back to your sentence, you experienced or felt that non-verbal conversation. You were one with the dog - LOL. Now maybe this isn't what your blog is about, but as an animal owner it's a cool feeling to experience. One one hand it's like saying "let's go for some ice cream" and Kurt, say "you took the words right out of my mouth." Blondie made a decision and looked for guidance from the leader of the dance.

There are people who can't read or see human body language; there are people who only hear words in black and white; they don't pick up on intonation, etc. all parts of a spoken language. The other part that I've heard is, the telepathy part - words, emotions, pictures are sent before the words get out of our mouths. That's the deeper part we'd like to have to become a better partner with our pets.

At the first clinic I did with Steve, he had us start out with a partner, hands on the hips sort of thing with the person behind guiding the other. It was mass confusion. Besides trying to to not run into or bump into someone, you had a herky-jerky issue between partners. We did little floor stuff and who knows what. At the end, we did the same thing. Everyone was in sync - partners and the group as large. Neurologically, partners were connected and so was the group. You and I had the same thing with Sarge.

I remember my first Feldenkrais workshop with Steve, what brilliant work. I always wanted to study Feldenkrais movement more, but had all I could handle with the modalities of soft tissue I was studying.

Those moments of “being one with the dog” are so amazing. Being in communication with the satos is addicting for me because they are not trained or conditioned the way our dogs are. When we raise a dog it is with the dog fitting into our house, our lives. These dogs have independent lives. Their primary relationships are with each other. I’m fitting into their lives.
It's studying the essential dog. Our dogs soak up our energy, they become so similiar to their people in the same way people who have been married a long time become similiar. Knowing a dog tells you so much about their human. 
A dog without a human tells his own story. I hope that's not too far out.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Art of Reading Canine Body Language

Melissa said...

I am thinking Bonita is going to make a move towards Snow. Probably while keeping her eyes on her mother. I am also thinking Blonde is not going to allow it.

jen said...

I think that Bonita is going to try and maybe push her luck with getting some kibble. To me she's thinking that "if Snow can have some, then I should too."

The little red girl is in stalk position. Her ears are forward in concentration. Notice how her head position minimizes neck exposure. The front of her body is all about how she feels about Snow White. Wouldn’t she just like to like to kick Snow’s butt. Snow White has not only been invited to eat, but has received kindness from Blondie that Bonita has not. Don’t tell me that dogs don’t notice unfair treatment.

Her tail position tells us that Bonita will not risk the wrath of mommy. She is a picture of conflict. That tail tells us quite a bit. If she were solidly into retaliation or taking kibble, the tail would be straight or up. Her tail or good sense holds her back from what she would clearly like to do. Remember that Blondie had Bonita so terrorized that she wouldn’t move towards food when she was starving. Blondie’s authority is almost absolute. I’ve had to work hard to install the almost in the absolute.

Your reading of Bonita’s posture is great. We will get into reading conflicting signals. Good work, Melissa and Jen!

Snow White has been invited to dinner; what else matters?

Blondie is watching Snow’s latest leading man amble up the driveway.

Now that you know what Blondie is looking at, does Blondie’s body language give a clue what she’s thinking about Toby, the big rugged looking male heading her way?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Body Language Tells The Tail

Snow White may have won over Blondie with her sweet ways, but what does Bonita’s body language say to you?

Bonita has just finished the scattered kibble away from Blondie’s kibble pile behind her. Faithful, obedient Bonita has never been invited to dine like this interloping bitch. Do you see a not happy camper here?

What do you make of Blondie’s tail position relative to the way she holds it in other photos?

Doesn’t sweet Snow White look like she is enjoying her meal?

Let’s have some fun; anybody care to guess what happens next?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Gentle Spirit Wins One

Amazing, Blondie is watching Snow White eat HER food. The I, me, mine girl is sharing, yahoo.

Even in humans sharing is exceptional. This dog grew up with hunger and scarcity of resources and she invites another female to share her food. This hasn’t been easy for Blondie. Can you imagine a bully getting tired of kicking someone’s butt?

With a high pitched squeaky sound from Blondie, Snow White takes the two steps to the food and begins to eat.

I don’t think Blondie can believe she is sharing her food. You can see how Blondie is ready to stop the young female.

The gentle spirit of Snow White wins over the selfish brute Blondie. The only thing I did to intervene is to place the food so that it was difficult to run around defending. Snow didn’t sneak in to snatch a few mouthfuls like Lance or some of the other boys roaming the neighborhood.

Dogs in day care develop a give and take that isn’t always based on dominance. Good day care attendants redirecting dogs before conflict teaches them that other behavior options are available.

Multi dog homes are often lovely behavior models of give and take; sometimes not.

I am sure that if Snow were to hurry gobbling Blondie would end her meal.

Blondie turns to warn her daughter Bonita away from the next pile of kibble, as Snow munches contentedly. Mom’s generosity does not extend to far in Bonita’s direction. Bonita makes do with the scattered pieces a little further away. Blondie looks as if she were looking for an excuse to go ballistic.

In general some pet dogs share easily, some do not. Frequently we see the larger or tougher dog stand over a dog until food is relinquished. Most dogs wait for an opportunity to grab what they can.

Snow White staged a successful sit-in. She got her butt beat repeatedly, but came back. Her demeanor was always sweet and hopeful. That's pretty unusual no matter what group.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who is in Charge?

Melissa said...

"Blondie seems to need frequent reassurance that she is in charge.
Why do you think this is?

Good question, Mel. Answer: She’s not in charge. Your first impulse was right.

Blondie does not want to share her home, her spot with Snow White. She knows hard times, so she doesn’t want to share her food. Bonita, her daughter was starving to death in January.

Blondie chased her off. She came back over and over again. Most dogs get beat up and move along until they find a place they fit in or they die.

Blondie has become more tolerant of Snow. I think it’s unusual for Blondie to allow another bitch in her spot. Since the three dogs Blondie, Stormy and Bonita have enough food the omega doesn’t get chased away from the food.

It seems to me that Blondie is worried about giving up control of the chow. Snow tolerates Blondie’s abuse without attempting to defend herself. It’s working. Blondie doesn’t know what to do. Her instincts tell her to protect her food, her resources, but dag Snow White is so sweet. She sends respectful signals. She doesn’t bite back. But then she thinks about her food. That’s when she pins her. Blondie is conflicted.

Blondie has always been about what she wants. I haven’t corrected her or forced her to allow Snow White to eat. I’ve just made it impossible for her to defend all her resources.

Snow makes no moves toward the food. She just comes closer. If she were to dart in grabbing a bite, Blondie would chase her off with painful bites.

Blondie does not know what to do with this pacifist behavior. Look at the stupid look on her face. Lord, she looked me right in the face. I felt like she was asking me what to do. It made me laugh.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Puppy Love

Lance and Bonita gaze into each other’s eyes like they are all alone.
Sweet young Bonita stands there swinging her tail. Lance, Snow’s steadfast suitor forgets all about her; Snow who? Just look at this pretty young thing.

In the background Stormy introduces himself to Snow White in rude dude style.  Her head is under his back end. Blondie forces her into an alpha roll.

Bonita lowers her head and extends her neck to Lance. Her tail is still swinging. Lance’s tail is completely erect.

These two are smitten with each other. Lance brought a date, but left with a younger girl. What a dog.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Discussion Art of Submission

Melissa said...
Just the position of the dogs tells much. Bonita standing back, tail down but definitely interested in what might happen. Will she join Blondie if confrontation happens? or does she stand out of the way?

Bonita is learning how to protect territory and resources. She knows the puff up, jump up & down on the front legs tactic. I’ve seen her give stiff legs to visiting neighbor dogs and some people. I love watching her in learning mode. She is still young and naïve. It’s like watching a toddler explore the world. In this picture she is very excited, but controls herself, lest mommy dearest turns on her.

Stormy allows the bitches to block him from Lance. I could see a more confident male being more concerned with Lance's proximity to Snow than his own.

Stormy loves the ladies. He will prance and smooze a new lady for hours. He finds controlling himself most difficult. The degree to which he loses his rear end in front of Lance reflects that difficulty.

I laughed at him when this happened. I don’t know what he felt, if anything, but he turned to look right at me. This is the most socially adept dog I have ever known. I’ve known some brilliant wonderful dogs, so this is a HUGE compliment to this dog. You will see why later.

I had never made the observation of tail position differences between dogs and bitches before... Interesting, the straight saber tail is definitely a male thing. The curled over the back... female.

Melissa, wait til you see what these guys do with their tails; it’s amazing. As a dog’s macho confidence and excitement level waxes or wanes, so does his tail. This can change from moment to moment.

The hotshot girls with the tails curled over their backs displaying their “goods” are just too cute.

Lance's head seems slightly turned away from Blondie.. not coincidence I don't think. It seems everyone is just waiting to see what the "boss" is going to do.

Blondie is so confident. She projects this. Lance respects her. Men walking down the road at night respect her.

It absolutely confounds me that one bitch has all this attention! Although Blondie is the head honcho, it seems Snow is quietly running this show.

That’s the art of submission! Ding, ding, ding! Thank you.

Human psychology textbooks are filled with submission as a choice in how to handle life strategies.

Haven’t all trainers seen the hand licking little pet get whatever she wants from her loving human?

This not the first street dog I’ve seen use submission as a life strategy. Snow White’s manner is always so calm. This amazing creature is the first canine student of Gandhi that I have ever met. She does not fight back. I think this perplexes Blondie. Look how close to the food Snow is getting.

We all know how healthy well fed dogs can behave over food. To welcome a stranger to eat almost seems like an altruistic act.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Let's All Just Get Along

In this photo Blondie has her tail somewhat lowered. Her ears are off to the side in a friendly face.

Bonita waits to see what her mother will do next. She has a happy, wide tail wag. Her head is low in deference to Blondie.

Check out Stormy, he only has eyes for Snow White. His forward ears signal his interest in Snow White. He is over his toes in suave dude mode.

Lance hasn’t seen him yet.

This photo is one of appeasement. Storm’s ears are pinned back. He went totally weak in the rear in response to Lance.

Snow White shows more submission with the low head and tail carriage. Blondie is accepting Snow’s submission by lower her head and tail. Yes, that’s a lowered tail for Blondie.

Bonita stands there waiting. This is a big learning experience. Her mom is being nice to the interloper Snow White.

What makes this picture interesting is that Snow White’s leading man Lance has his eyes on Bonita. Snow White who? He’s not even concerned with Stormy. He’s checking out Bonita.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Discussion What's A Girl Got To Do


What's a Girl Got To Do To Be Welcome Here?

Melissa said...
I love this picture! What I really love is that although everything in her expression is softened and non threatening she is still standing completely upright. She exudes confidence. (my opinion) Most dogs I see when in a situation like this would be shrinking in some way. She shows complete deferment to the other dogs without wallowing. These ears are friendly but not fearful. No fear! Although she has been pinned and "punished" by Blondie so many times. I have met few dogs who have the ability to appease. It's sad how much our control over our canine companions has led to the lack of understanding and ability to speak their own language.

I agree, Snow White is so expressive. She embodies the art of submission.

I’m guessing that the girls in your house are exquisite at their language. We know so little about the capacity of another species to communicate, let alone how they actually do it.

The island dogs develop communication skills on a daily basis with a wide variety of other dogs. Unlike our dogs their primary relationships are with each other. Their communication is truly sophisticated.

Our dogs know how to appease us. When they try to appease other dogs, the bigger question is how that appeasement will be received by the other dog.

The trend seems to be to keep our dogs isolated with vets discouraging puppy parties and puppy kindergarten. Now, I’m reading that some trainers are discouraging about day care.

We understand that children of all species learn through play. Studies on human children confirm how skills are developed in play. We watch national geographic showing young horses learn by playing. Why don’t we understand how important it is for our dogs?