Sunday, October 5, 2008

Emotions in Dogs

I talk to my pets all the time, the cats usually ignore me. When Marley first moved in she would look like the picture below. She would look at me and if I looked at her she would avert her eyes and flick her tongue, in essence she looked kind of embarrassed and confused. I recall stopping in mid-word and just looking at her as I realized...she does not speak English. I was talking a lot and she was not sure If I wanted her to do anything or if she should be doing something.
This moment was a turning point in our relationship. I stopped talking for the sake of talking and I began to teach her some obedience and tricks. Teaching her obedience and tricks gives her confidence that she is doing what I ask and I believe makes her feel secure. The picture below illustrates Marley's usual expression. The ears and eyes are relaxed and the mouth is slightly open and appears to be grinning, in essence a happy, relaxed dog.

I just finished reading a wonderful book called For the Love of A Dog by Patricia B. McConnell,PhD. This is a wonderful book where she discusses emotions and how dogs express those emotions. I started to read it because I wanted to learn more about the differences in Marley's expressions. I learned more than I anticipated. Marley has started doing this weird hip bump at other dogs. I was wondering if she was "presenting" except she has been neutered. This is discussed in the book and it appears it is a dominant female dog action and now I know what to look for and can avoid any potential dominance issues at the park.

p.s. Marley was not happy about the flash on the camera in the first photo.

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