Canine behaviour by Karen Wild: Do I know what my dog is thinking?

Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001
Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001

A loud shriek usually greets us wherever I tend to walk our dogs. The scream is usually from a human being, exclaiming at the tiny size of our little rescue dog. She turns around and blinks at them in an effort to get them to come over and give her a fuss. She truly loves people. How do I know this?

Fortunately my dogs are used to humans and their sudden weirdness, which means that the others ignore what is going on without seeking to dive behind me in fear. However, as you know, I work with dogs that do fear people, and that also do not appreciate any kind of noise. How do I know that they do not like that, either?

From the moment you begin learning about animals, you are taught about 'body' language. As dogs cannot chat to us, at least not in the words we use, they can only show us their thoughts.

I am not referring to those YouTube videos where a dog moves its mouth around whilst whining, sounding like they say 'I love you'. And who can forget the That's Life terrier that said 'Sausages'? In truth, that dog was grumbling loudly whilst the owner moved his mouth around. It wouldn't be allowed on TV nowadays I think.

Back to knowing what your dog thinks. Simply put, ask yourself if your dog is showing signs of wanting more of something. More fuss, like little Bonnie does when she meets a person. More food? More stroking on their tummy?

How do we know if they want more? Well, they will stay put. They may use their paws to 'grab' your hand and pull it closer to get you to pet them. This is your dog 'telling' you they like something that is going on.

Conversely, we have to learn what they mean when they do not want something to carry on. Does your dog move away, or hide from things? Does he subtly turn his head away, lick his lips, flatten his ears against his head? These are all things asking you to stop!

What happens if you don't listen to what your dog is trying to tell you? It gets more intensified. In a good way, you will be lovingly mugged by your enthusiastic pooch. In a bad way, dogs will growl, grumble and may snap, or bite. Nobody wants to see this. The answer is to work out what is upsetting them, and change what you are doing.