Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Michelle (a MoJo’s Backyard staff member and dog mom) had read a book called On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals. Saturday morning she came in with it and said that we should all read it and utilize its contents at MoJo’s. While it’s true that the dogs are quiet and play with each other most of the day, there is that time when a new dog enters the daycare and all calmness is ripped apart like too many unsuspecting stuffed toys. It is these times that the knowledge of all dog calming signals would be the most useful and just an all-around awesome tool.
As I read through the book, all those cute things that dogs do started to become eye-openers for me. Nose-licking, head-turning, yawning, blinking, bowing…they were all signs of a stressed dog, or at least a dog who views a situation as stressful or potentially dangerous and is trying to prevent an escalation. What?! I have tons of pictures of dogs, tongue on nose, seemingly posing for the cutest photograph I’ve ever taken. And the author is telling me that I’m stressing the dog out by capturing the moment with a foreign apparatus to my face and a startling flash?! That seemed totally unfair. So now I’m looking for the signals everywhere and trying to mimic the signals to get a response. I’m more aware of my body language and how my movements affect the dogs.
But I take everything with a grain of salt. Her explanations and instructions are simple. Too simple. And as anyone who has ever watched the Dog Whisperer and tried the “hand is the mouth and fingers are the teeth” technique knows, things are not as easy as they look on TV. And so it goes, apparently, in books. Also, all dog training, behavior and psychology theories are just that, theories. It’s an eye-of-the-beholder kind of thing where people see what they want to see. And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as dog parents stay educated on the various theories and methods and form their own opinions on what is right for their dog. Of course, all this comes from someone whose dogs have a vocabulary of “sit” and not much else. From someone who tried the Cesar Milan method on a hard-headed hound and lost miserably. From someone who reinforced teeth-baring because it was cute. So, please, pass the salt.