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Canine Calming Signals misunderstood

By chance I came across a "Best Funny Dogs compilation" video on the internet. A first my jaw hit the floor, and then I was hit by a wave of overwhelming sadness. How can people get it so wrong?

A few of the clips showed the cute unconscious way in which dogs relax and just "be" - and those were endearing, but many of the "hilarious" clips featured dogs which had chewed various items. The humans were asking the dogs if they had chewed these things - repeatedly, and really in the poor dogs' faces. Even the behaviours which were not created by the humans had darker connotations - why did the dog fall asleep with its paw in its mouth? Why the funny walk from the dog in boots? Why was the puppy rolling down the hill? There were good reasons which had nothing to do with "cute".

The reason the "destructive" clips had been shown is because (to their minds) the dogs were showing every sign of guilty behaviour for being caught out, and it was soooo funny. Take a look at the stressed body language of the dogs and wonder how funny they found it.

Dogs live in the moment. Unless they have been caught in the act, anything they may have done hours or even minutes before is consigned to history and forgotten.
What they were responding to was the angry or accusing (sometimes gentle but still focussed to an uncomfortable degree) body language of the human and the "guilty" behaviour was simply their attempt to calm the human down and take the heat out of the situation. I very much doubt that they had any idea of why the human was displeased with them.

Read Turid Rugass's wonderful book on calming signals and Canine Body Language by Brenda Aloffs, and you will see in this video what amounts to a series of perfect examples which could be used to illustrate a lecture on this subject!

Oh and then there was the chasing of the vacuum cleaner. Not play, but an attempt by the dog to kill the threat. I wonder how many times this piece of equipment is brought out as a floor show for guests? Each time the poor dog is faced with huge stress.
Then there was the "swimming" dog.... words fail me.

Cats versus dogs yes some of them showed the heart-warming friendship which can exist between cat and dog, but one or two of them? Don't they realise that this is a life or death scenario in the minds of these animals?

I could count on the fingers of two fingers the number of clips where the dog was actually relaxed and enjoying the situation - and perhaps less than that.
Each clip where a caring dog owner should have recognised that their dog was not having a good time, was a monumental tribute to the total lack of understanding which humans have for the dogs they purport to "love".

Here is a link to the clip www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi8VKaOi2nc
Watch it and make up your own minds.

p.s. And yes, there were a couple which I loved - notably the "talking dog" - dogs are our friends and we CAN have fun - just not at their expense.

NOVEMBER 26TH, 2014 @ 13:41:34 GMT


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