REFLECTIONS: Interesting, and true, stuff about the way that dogs work

I did something the other day that I haven’t done for a long time.

I bought two books.

That’s right, real paper books!

I’m a voracious reader.

I normally go through three books a week.

But, with the internet, iPad and Kindle, they’re all digital.

So I got to thinking, what makes these books any different?

Why did I go for the real thing … and not go digital on these?

I suddenly understood. I wanted to pass them on to my wife when I was done, and I had the feeling I would be referring back to these many times over … all of which is rather difficult to do when digital.

What were the books?

The author is Dr.Stanley Coren. Coren is one of the world’s leading authorities on dogs … and their general psychological issues.

(Yeah, I know, but under it all I’m a doggy sort of guy!)

He is a Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

He’s authored numerous books about dogs … and the one that caught my attention was “How Dogs Think” and explains what the world looks to dogs and why they act the way they do.

The second book, “Understanding Your Dog for Dummies,” he coauthored with Sarah Hodgson, who has authored eight books about puppies and has been a trainer for dogs … and their people … for more than 20 years out of Westchester, New York.

So, you ask, what did you learn?

A lot of this information will need to be condensed … and to get the full impact of the books … do as I did, and buy them.

Let’s look at barking first. Barks, according to Coren, say a lot about what the dog is thinking.

Low-pitched sounds and growls make the animal seem large and dangerous … and usually indicate anger and the possibility of aggressive behavior.

High pitched sounds, on the flip side, are just the opposite … even when it comes from a larger dog. That basically means, he contends, “come on in, it’s safe to approach me.”

A rapid string of two to four barks with pauses in between? Coren says it roughly means ”there’s something going on that needs to be checked out” and is the most common form of barking.

Continuous barking, slower and at a lower pitch, suggests the dog senses an eminent problem … and probably means “Danger is very close … get ready to defend yourself!”

There are three other barks that should be noted, he says.

“One or two sharp, short barks of high or midrange pitch is the most typical greeting sound” and usually replaces the alarm barks noted above and normally occur when a visitor is recognized as friendly. The message is clearly a “hello” and is used when the person is greeted when they walk through the door.

A long string of solitary barks … with a deliberate pause after each one … is a sign of a lonely dog asking for companionship, Coren says, and means “Let’s hang out!”

The last of the barks is a stutter bark … which sounds like a “harr-ruff” and is normally given with front legs plat on the ground and the rear held high. This simply means it’s time for a tussle … so “let’s play!”

I personally thought it very interesting to also read about a dog’s behavior as it regards to its tail wagging.

I always thought tail wagging meant the dog was happy and friendly.

Wrong!

This is a huge misinterpretation of dog behavior, says Coran. Some tail wags mean happiness … which other signal fear and even are warning you that you might get bitten.

While a bark says a lot about what your dog is thinking, tail wagging serves as an emotional meter.

If the tail is held at middle height, Coran says the dog is relaxed. As the tail moves up, it is a sign that the dog is becoming more threatening with a vertical tail showing a clearly dominant signal meaning “I’m boss around here.”

Wags, Coran says, tell a lot about the dog.

A slight tail wag … each swing small … is usually seen during greetings and can be interpreted as “Hello there” or a hopeful “I’m here.”

A broad tail wag is a friendly “I’m not challenging or threatening you” show … and in many contexts, can mean “I’m pleased.” It’s the closest thing to the concept of a “happiness” wag … particularly if the tail seems to drag the dog’s hips.

A slow wag … at “half mast” is less social … according to Coran. Slow wags, neither dominantly high or submissively low, signals insecurity or uncertainty about what to do next.

Small, high-speed movements are showing a fight or flight syndrome … and give the impression that the dog is about to take action (run or fight, usually). If the tail is held high and vibrating, it signals a likely active threat.

In reading an excerpt from Coren’s new book “Do Dogs Dream?” which was published this July by W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright @2012, I discovered something else I always wanted to know: Do dogs smile or laugh?

And the answer to both of the questions is an emphatic yes!

There is a canine smile. Coren says you can see it when your dog holds its jaws slightly opened, revealing the dog’s tongue lapping over its front teeth. Oftentimes the eyes will take on a teardrop shape, he notes, as if they were pulled upward slightly at the outside corners. I’ve seen this in both Brutus and our new pup Elsa.

Fascinating stuff and great books. I highly recommend you read them if your into doggy stuff!

To close out this column, I’m going to give you an excerpt on “How To Make Your Dog Laugh.”

It’s a hoot.

Coren says humans can imitate sounds of dog laughter, but it takes conscious monitoring of your mouth’s shape to get the sound pattern right. Sooo, here’s his three point steps:

1) Round your lips slightly to make a “huh” sound. Note: the sound has to be breathy with no actual voicing, meaning that if you touch your throat while making the sound, you should not feel any vibration.

2) Use an open-mouthed smiling expression to make a “hhah” sound. Again, breath the sound; do not voice it.

3) Combine steps one and two to create canine laughter. It should sound like “hhuh-hhah-hhuh-hhah.”

Have fun practicing this weekend … you’re sure to either get it perfect or drive both your pup or your spouse, or both, nuts!

After way too many tries, Elsa is still wondering what I’m doing!

Hah!

 

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. Email him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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Posted by Jack Batdorff

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. E-mail him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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