Do You See What I See?

Admit it – it’s fun watching our dogs because so often they are joyful. There is a big difference between watching our dogs and observing them. Let’s look at what it means to observe a dog.

Often when we look at dogs we see their love, joy and devotion. However, when we observe dogs we need to be to objective and consistent in what we see. If we are do this task well it can help us understand what our dog experiences as she faces each day.

Everyone's attention is on Louise while they wait for her to throw the dummy. Dogs are Rixa, Galley, Ryder, Jade
Everyone’s attention is on the handler, Louise, while they wait for her to throw the dummy. The dogs are (left to right) Jade, Ryder, Galley, and Rixa

Do you see what I see? It is easy to say that the dogs in this photo are happy and focused on the handler. But what does that tell us about each dog? It is more informative when we slow things down and take photos one frame at a time. You may find it helpful to know the dogs in the photos:

  • Jade (black and white Portuguese Water Dog)
  • Ryder (black Portuguese Water Dog)
  • Galley (black Portuguese Water Dog – white socks on front paws )
  • Rixa (gray Portuguese Water Dog) and
  • Charlie (beagle – blind, no eyes) appears in later photos

Background:  We were playing retrieving games in the yard. The dogs would return to Louise and she would toss the dummy for them. They would all come, sit, and look at Louise. Once they were focused on her she would throw the dummy and the dogs had to wait until they were released from the “wait” to get the dummy after it was thrown. Galley and Jade took off to play right after the photo above was taken which isn’t surprising since they are the youngest dogs in the group. Rixa and Ryder are waiting for Louise to give them their next cue. Meanwhile Charlie is exploring the yard. Rixa and Ryder were focused on Louise when “out of the blue” Rixa lost her focus. The photos make it clear why this happened. When Rixa lost her focus it happened very quickly and it didn’t seem like a big deal. Looking at the photos it is obvious that there was a reason for Rixa to be distracted.
It is helpful to know:

  • Ryder is very stoic and when given a cue he does it and doesn’t usually move from that position
  • Rixa is older and deaf.
Everyone's attention is on Louise while they wait for her to throw the dummy. Dogs are Rixa, Galley, Ryder, Jade
Everyone’s attention is on Louise while they wait for her to throw the dummy. Dogs are Rixa, Galley, Ryder, Jade
  • Jade: head up, ears alert, eyes round and focused on Louise (handler), mouth open panting, tongue straight out, sitting straight, tail not visible in photo
  • Ryder: head up, ears alert, eyes round and focused on Louise (handler), mouth closed, tongue inside, sitting straight,tail straight behind;
  • Galley: head up, ears alert, eyes round and focused on Louise (handler), mouth open panting, tongue out to her left, sitting straight, tail straight behind;
  •  Rixa: head up, ears alert, eyes round and focused on Louise (handler), mouth closed, tongue inside,sitting straight, tail not visible in photo
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise

Galley and Jade have run off to play. Charlie is wandering around and is coming toward Ryder and Rixa. At this point both Rixa and Ryder are still focused on Louise, but notice that Charlie is aware of the two dogs and his body language indicates he is concerned.

  • Rixa and Ryder are focused on Louise
  • Charlie is about 6 feet away
  • Charlie furrowed brow, ears are soft/floppy, mouth is panting – open with tongue out; body position is a cower (neck and back are level); tail down but not tucked.
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise

As Charlie approaches Rixa moves her head away from Louise and toward Charlie. Ryder has not moved.

  • Charlie is about 4 feet away
  • Rixa moves her head to her left – the direction Charlie is approaching
  • Ryder does not move
  • Charlie, he is panting and has a furrowed brow. His cower deepens – his head and neck are lower than his back (previous picture they were level with his back), his tail appears to be tucked.
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
  • Charlie is almost behind Ryder.
  • Ryder moves his head to his left (the direction that Charlie approached)
  • Rixa moves her head to her left and down (toward Charlie) while extending her neck toward Charlie.
  • Charlie is panting, has a furrowed brow, is quite close to Ryder, and is in a a cower (not as deep as the previous photo), his tail appears to be tucked (from the position of his rump and prior photos).
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
  • Charlie is behind Ryder and is moving away – he is increasing the distance between himself and Ryder
  • Ryder moves his head to his right and slightly down (following Charlie) while doing a tongue flick (his tongue goes in and out very quickly – a self-soothing behavior)
  • Rixa moves her head to the left and up (toward Charlie) and extends her neck toward Charlie.
  • Charlie has a furrowed brow, is quite close to Ryder and continues to cower. His tail appears to be tucked.
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
  • Charlie is almost behind Ryder.
  • Ryder moves his head to the left (following Charlie)
  • Rixa moves her head to the left and down (toward Charlie) and extends her neck toward Charlie.
  • Charlie is panting, has a furrowed brow, is quite close to Ry.der and is in a bit of a cower. Cowering: Charlie’s neck and back are level. his tail is tucked
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
Rixa and Ryder, focus on Charlie, not Louise
  • Charlie has passed Ryder.
  • Ryder moves his head to the right slightly (following Charlie)
  • Rixa moves her head to the right (toward Charlie) and tilts her head toward Charlie.
  • Charlie is panting, has a furrowed brow, is quite close to Rixa. Charlie is not cowering at this point. His tail is low medium – at a 45 degree angle. This information indicates that while he is in the caution zone he is transitioning away from caution toward the green zone- Life’s Good (a happy place). My next post will be about the zones – first you need to understand how to read the body language before you can place the animal in a zone.
Charlie walks past Rixa. Who is more concerned – Rixa or Charlie?
  • Charlie is almost past Rixa.
  • Ryder moves his head to the right (following Charlie)
  • Rixa moves her head to the right and down (following Charlie).Did you notice that Charlie is panting, has a furrowed brow, is quite close to Rixa and is not cowering. Compare this photo of Charlie’s head, neck, back and rear to the others and you will see the difference in his body language. You may wonder why is there a difference. Often it is due to more distance between dogs.
Look at steady Rixa and Ryder are sitting - it is beautiful. They are clearly focused on Louise.
Look at steady Rixa and Ryder are sitting – it is beautiful. They are clearly focused on Louise.
  • Charlie has walked out of the photo and away from Rixa and Ryder
  • Rixa’s focus is back on Louise
  • Ryder’s focus is back on Louise

Definitions:
Cower: Head and Neck are level with the back
Tongue Flick: tongue goes in and out very quickly

dog bite prevention

 

We may not always realize why our dog is distracted and is unable to paying attention to us. We may think that our dog should be giving us his or her undivided attention. When our dog is distracted there is often a logical explanation. Our job is to find the reason and help our dog do the job we want him to do. Oh – don’t forget to have fun in the process!

How do we keep track of all of this? It looks so easy when someone else does it so here are a couple of forms to help you get started. If you want to ask questions along the way feel free to post here or on my Facebook page.

A completed form for you to use as a guide when you fill observe your animals

 

 

A chart that explains the questions you need to consider when observing animals. You may not have the answers to each question, but you want to consider each question when you observe your animal.

observation-log_exmpl_revisedobservation-log_information

A practice quide – there aren’t any “right” or “wrong” answers here… just take a few minutes and think about what you observe in the illustrations and which zone your might place the animal in for the scenario you created. You can create multiple scenarios – how does that effect the zone placement? It is fun to see how each scenario influences the zone.observation-log_practice

A blank form for you to use with your own dogs or clients

observation-log_blank

Once you become proficient at observing animals you won’t need the reminders of Head, Body, Rear, etc.

hugs and woofs

Ella: Learning how to play

Ella - love you girl!
Ella – love you girl!

Ella joined our clan in July and fit in right away. Ella accepted Charlie and his blindness without hesitation. It was apparent that Ella trusted Charlie even when he was socially awkward. Ella grew up in a home that was filled with other Cavaliers so when she met Jade she saw a giant beastie of a dog. It didn’t take long for Jade to ease Ella’s fears about her. Ella soon decided that Jade wasn’t scary at all and that Jade hung the moon!

Teaching Ella the basics
Ella arrived knowing how to walk extremely well on a leash and how to stay, but sit and down were new concepts. If there were thought bubbles over Ella’s head at times I swear they would read “isn’t it enough to be beautiful?” or “you want me to do what?” Ella is one of the sweetest and most loving dogs you will ever meet, but learning new skills takes time and creativity on my part. It has been fun to go back to the basics with Ella.

Ella learning how to "down" by modeling Jade's behavior
Ella learning how to “down” by modeling Jade’s behavior

Do you see how hard Ella concentrates? I haven’t had a dog that thought this hard to get something right in a long time!

It has been fun has been watching Jade teach Ella. Jade is very patient  with Ella especially during training moments. If you’ve ever met Jade you know that patience doesn’t come naturally to her!  Words like “overly enthusiastic” or “extremely joyful” or even  “baby Godzilla” have been used to describe Jade. Patient … nope… not a word that typically fits her profile.  So, why do you think she is being patient with Ella?

Jade is teaching Ella and is self-handicapping. Jade can be very sweet and loving when she knows that a person, or a dog, is in need. Jade is patient with Ella because somehow she knows that Ella needs help learning basic cues like sit, down, and leave it. It is cool to watch her teach Ella.

Play is an important part of learning
One of the many wonderful things about dogs is they use play to teach and learn. When Ella met  Jade and Charlie she was shy around both of them.  She became friends with Charlie first and loves to snuggle with him.  It took a little longer before she was completely comfortable around Jade and even longer until she was willing to play with Jade.  These are appropriate activities with each dog because Jade loves to play and Charlie loves to snuggle.

Ella and Charlie - sweet pups
Ella snuggling with Charlie – sweet pups

It took about about three months of Ella living with us for the next story to happen.  Every dog, every home will be different – the key is to be patient and let your new dog find their own comfort zone so that they can find their joy.

Jade selected the smallest fleece rope toy that she had and took it to the overstuffed chair in our living room so she could let the rope dangle from her mouth over the edge of the chair. Jade looked at Ella to make sure that Ella was watching her.  Jade got up and very slowly paced around the living room – back and forth – right by Ella… each time Jade passed Ella she got closer. Sometimes Jade would let the rope gently touch Ella but she didn’t let Ella take the rope. Every now and then Jade returned to the chair and waited a few seconds before resuming her walk around the room.

Each time resumed her walk she increased her speed. Eventually Jade started tossing the rope up in the air and catching it… Ella got interested in chasing Jade when the rope was being tossed! Ella didn’t try to take the rope, she just chased Jade. The game continued for a while like this… Jade pacing, swinging the rope and/or tossing it up and catching it with Ella chasing Jade.  Don’t blink… Jade let Ella catch the rope! Within a few minutes Jade had Ella tugging on the rope and even had Ella grabbing the rope right up by Jade’s mouth to tug.  And I mean tug hard!  Ella was tugging!!

Ella and Jade tugging
Ella and Jade tugging

I was so happy to see this – why? Because this was the same girl that thought Jade was scary. Jade was patient and knew what was needed to let Ella be her friend. Jade taught Ella how to play with her. Jade self-handicapped so that Ella could learn that she was safe, that she was a friend who could be trusted. We all need friends like Jade in the world.

Ella, Charlie and Jade playing
Ella, and Jade playing. Charlie comes to see what they are doing and maybe join in the fun!

Jade and Ella continue to play and have increased their games to include other toys. To let you know how comfortable Ella is in our home, Ella has even stalked Jade! Jade seems to like being stalked by Ella because she takes her paw and just puts it on Ella like “you’ve got to be kidding.” That is when Ella takes the toy and runs! Ella has a few places she can hide out, but Jade knows where to find her. It has become their game. It is good. It means Ella feels safe.

Since this post is about play I want to share one more thing. Ella has been “retrieving” with Jade when Jade practices for her competitions or just for fun. Ella has only been willing to tag the ball or dummy. She does run with Jade to get the ball or dummy and to bring it back – she has not brought the item back. The other day she picked up the ball! I was so excited!

Ella retrieving and holding a ball for the first time. This is a stress ball - she doesn't look stressed here!
Ella retrieving and holding a ball for the first time. This is a stress ball – she doesn’t look stressed here!

It is important to share the joy in play because if nothing else, play should be fun!

So… How do your dogs play together? How do you play with your dogs?

For more information on the importance of play:
Jaak Panksepp: “Affective Continuity? From SEEKING to PLAY — Science, Therapeutics and Beyond” p.1

The science of emotions: Jaak Panksepp at TEDxRainier

Fun Times: Dogs at the Beach

What do you do for fun with your dogs? My dogs enjoy many of the same things, but each one has their own favorite thing to do. Jade loves to swim and run. Jade is the dog swimming in the header photo of this blog. In that photo she is swimming in the rain. Nothing will stop Jade from swimming if there is water nearby.  Charlie loves to follow his nose and he loves to share his joy with people. Ella, well, I am not sure I want to admit this, but she likes to tickle me! Other than that she likes to look beautiful (who knew that was a thing), whatever Jade is doing, and snuggling! Oh, and Ella does not like to swim – not one teeny, tiny bit!

I was  at a conference in Coronado, California . The hotel was right on the beach which was nice. It didn’t take me long to discover that one end of the beach was used by Navy Seals and the other end was a dog park. You can guess which end of the beach I spent most of my time.

There is something about the beach that makes you just want to have fun. The same is true for dogs.  Some loved getting into the water and running in the waves, others only wanted to run on the beach and avoided getting wet.

walking along the water's edge
walking along the water’s edge

People liked taking their dogs for a walk along the edge of the water. All dogs were off leash and they followed certain off leash etiquette:

  • dogs stayed within their sight;
  • dogs must be under voice control: this means dogs come when called so their person can either put a leash on their dog or the dog stayed with their person if there is a potentially dangerous situation;
  • dogs may not disturb other dogs, people, or wildlife;
  • all waste must be picked up and removed from beach.

Since everyone followed these rules people didn’t worry what other dogs were doing. They knew that the other dogs on the beach were okay and would not bother their dog. If dogs said “hello” to each other it was friendly and didn’t last long.  Mostly, the dogs stayed close to their person.

Dogs loved running free on the sand. People were attentive to their dogs. I loved it that people let the dogs decide what was fun. Some dogs only wanted to run and play on the beach. You can tell that these dogs clearly loved being on the beach. I wouldn’t take this joy from them – not in a million years!

Run free on the beach!
Sheer Joy! Running free!
Let's play!
Let’s play!
I might go close to the water, but I'm not getting my paws wet!! No how, now way!!
I might go close to the water, but I’m not getting my paws wet!! No how, now way!!

Some dogs wanted to be in the water.  Common theme: all of these dogs loved to play! The dogs were having fun whether they ran on the beach or they played in the water.

This next group of dogs wanted to chase balls, frisbees, whatever they could – not just on the sand, but they wanted to retrieve these items from the ocean!

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It is great that this dog had some self-control while he waited for the frisbee to be thrown… If I put a thought bubble over the dog’s head it might read “throw it already!”

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While he had self control he knew the trajectory and could anticipate where it would fly so he could catch it mid-air! I bet the thought bubble here would be “really, that’s all you got!” I loved watching this dog. After he caught the frisbee he ran into the waves with it. Was that a victory dance? Or was it his way of pretending that was where the frisbee was headed… we will never know. It was just fun to see this dog’s joy as he played the game.

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After he ran into the ocean with the frisbee he brought it back…..

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When he was done with the victory dance he came back toward his people, dropped the frisbee and laid down beside it.  It is a good idea to embrace the different play style of  each dog.  How does your dog play the game of retrieve? How does your dog play other games?

There was a little Jack Russell Mix that was a bundle of energy. He tried to be very patient while waiting for the ball to be thrown. Once it was tossed he would bolt for the ball like a horse that was let out of the starting gate during a race! He was a ton of fun to watch too.

Will you throw my ball?
Will you throw my ball?

This picture is fun because it gives you an idea of where the dog park was in relation to the hotel. The conference hotel was the building with the big red roof in the background – about a mile away.  The lady did throw the ball for her dog.

Skipping after the ball
Skipping after the ball

And he bounded after it! Oh the joy. He was such a delight – he had no fear of the waves!

searching for ball in deep water (well, for this dog!)
searching for ball in deep water (well, for this dog!)

Look for the tail in the middle of the photo and you’ll find the dog. His back is almost level with the depth of the water as he searches for his ball. He doesn’t give up though and is rewarded …

bringing ball back - let's do it again!
bringing ball back – let’s do it again!

Success!  He found his ball and brought it back. This little guy didn’t dally. He was in a hurry to retrieve his ball, bring it back, and play again!

A parting thought. Wherever we are, whatever we do – have fun. Dance, laugh, play. Share your joy. Live life without fear – as much as you can. I happened to get a picture that I love that reminds me of how we all have joy to share wherever we go!

Dance, laugh, love...
Dance, laugh, love…

Share the joy
Enjoy each moment
Live fear free as much as possible