Dog Body Language

Have you ever had one of those weeks where every dog walk becomes some sort of an “adventure” - and not necessarily the fun kind?

We’ve had challenges with reading the body language of other dogs this week, both on my part and on Rowan’s.

We have one large dog in the neighborhood with a neurological condition that makes his walk a bit different from how a neurotypical dog walks, and also makes his body language very confusing for Rowan. After he’s been attacked by multiple dogs over the years, he tends to “jump to conclusions” when a dog isn’t offering typical “friendly dog” body language.

You gotta love hiding behind vehicles to get through a walk without his behavior escalating!

The problem with Black Dogs…

I think it’s been almost 3 years now since our encounters with a specific black dog on the neighborhood trail. It actually took me 3 times encountering the dog before I was finally able to see why passing him on the trail was such a trigger for Rowan...

Hard stare and hackles…definitely not a “friendly” dog…

Unfortunately, it is common for dogs to have challenges reading the body language of black dogs. A dogs vision isn’t as good as a human’s vision, especially in low light. Encountering this dog in the shade of the trees made it very difficult for both Rowan and me to read his body language, and the dog’s human wasn’t interested in having a conversation, or giving us sufficient space to pass without Rowan feeling threatened.

Now I keep an eye out for ALL black dogs, just in case it’s this specific dog. I also work with him to reinforce the fact that not all black dogs are scary.

This week my management of a “selectively” reactive dog meant having to work with Rowan so that he doesn’t flip his lid when he sees another pup just minding their own business, who becomes a perceived threat just because they’re black or a darker color…

Thankfully Mr. Hard-Stare & Hackles hasn’t been off leash any of the times we’ve encountered him, but he does run off leash when there aren’t other dogs around (which is against the park rules…), so I always keep an eye out for him, and keep Rowan as far away as physically possible…

Rowan’s Archnemesis

There was certainly no issue understanding Rocco’s body language this week!

Rocco is the shepherd mix that attacked him our first winter in the neighborhood. Thankfully the owner was there within seconds, so no one got hurt, but both dogs have had “Big Feelings” about each other ever since then.

Rocco’s owner has done absolutely ZERO training with his dog…

Unless I can verify that Rocco is inside the house (usually by seeing him barking in the window) we stay across the street when we absolutely have to pass his house. 

It’s a good thing that I do stay across the street because this week he came charging out of the house to go for his walk - barking & lunging as soon as he saw Rowan - thankfully his owner held onto the leash!

Which actions, of course, triggered Rowan into defensive mode.

Thanks again for a neighbors vehicle that we can hide behind until Rocco was out of sight!

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