Not all tail wags are happy wags.
Dogs communicate through their entire body.
From the tip of their ears to the tip of their tail and everywhere in between 🙂
Your dog’s body language is the insight into at least having somewhat of an idea of what your dog is experiencing and feeling.
Knowing when your dog is happy, you know these are the times when your dog is learning the most, having the most fun and the happy wag is the easiest to see and understand.
The change in placement of the tail and the frequency and direction of wag can change.
These changes display your dog’s growing discontent, anxiety and even fearfulness.
Being able to read body language will enable you to know when its ok for your dog to say hello to a guest to when its time to take a break.
This insight is a gateway into how you can modify your environment and how quickly you can progress in training a new cue to whether your dog is feeling relaxed when meeting someone new.
The latter is especially important.
Becoming fluent in reading your dog’s body language can keep everyone safe when they are interacting with your dog.
Working with children, they often share the same misconception that all tail wags are happy wags.
One of the kids I have the pleasure of working with recently, is learning just this.
When we first met, Arwen approached her new puppy over the top of her puppy’s head.
Immediately, the puppy put her mouth on Arwen’s arm.
What happened next. Arwen stopped.
The puppy learned putting her mouth on an arm got Arwen to stop and therefore the mouthing behavior is reinforced.
Arwen didn’t do anything wrong from her POV. She’s a learner.
The puppy didn’t do anything wrong from her POV. She’s a learner too.
If a teachable intervention didn’t occur at this stage and Arwen continued touching the puppy in this manner, the puppy would most likely increase the intensity of the mouthing and resort to nipping and biting.
This escalation of behavior is contingent on both what the puppy is feeling and what is going on in that moment.
This experience opened a new opportunity for learning.
These teachable moments turn into life skill development moments.
Discussing concepts of responsibility and respect in an age appropriate way for a 7 year old, Arwen was able to articulate in her way how trust can be broken if she doesn’t “listen” to what the puppy is saying.
Not only does Arwen understand how and when her puppy wants to be touched, she also learns others can respect her in the same way.
There’s always more to dog training than just teaching skills to your dog.
Life lessons abound and become real life skills!