When we hire our Dallas dog walkers and pet sitters, loving dogs and being comfortable around them is obviously one of the hiring criteria. Once hired though, there is a lot more to learn! All of our staff go through training on company policies and procedures, in addition to training on dog and cat behavior.
It is important for our Dallas dog walkers and pet sitters to know how to: read a dog’s most common body language cues, understand some of the sounds they make and a bit about how dogs typically think.
Below is a condensed version of some of the things we reinforce with our Dallas dog walking staff to ensure they are looking for and thinking about dog behavior signals and thus, they can keep themselves and the dogs in their care, safe.
- Remember, dogs are group hunters. They are predatory.
- Dogs are hierarchal. They need to know where they rank in the family group.
- Dogs communicate by body postures, vocalizations, scent and visually.
- Dog “talk” is always clear and consistent when directed toward people, other dogs and cats. You just need to learn what they are saying.
- Effective people-dog communication is a two-way street: sharing and receiving. We need to listen more and “bark” less to truly communicate with dogs.
- It is important to recognize the major importance that scent plays in dog-to-dog communication. Sniffing enables dogs to download lots of info about the other dog’s age, health, temperament and social rank.
- A dog soliciting friendship or play toward another dog will plop into a play bow (lowering the chest, extending the front legs and raising the back end up with a friendly wagging tail).
- Dogs heed our body language signals more than what we say because they themselves focus more on body postures to communicate.
- In meeting a new dog, avoid focusing on just one aspect – say a wagging tail. Instead, incorporate the whole dog’s posture and the surroundings before making a determination about how that dog is feeling.
- Avoid direct stares and/or looming over a dog’s head to greet him.
- Understand some key canine vocals. A high-pitched long bark means “I’m worried or lonely and need reassurance.” Rapid, high-pitched barks mean, “Let’s play! Chase me! Throw the ball!” Low, repetitive barks mean, “Stay away from my family! Keep off my property!” A single bark or two means, “Hey! I’m here! What are you doing?” Growing with teeth exposed and body tense means, “I’m warning you – back off!” Growling with a body crouched low means, “You are making me nervous. I might snap at you if you come any closer.” Singsong howling means, “Calling all canines! Who’s out there? What’s going on?” Squeaky, repetitive yaps or whines mean, “I’m hurt or scared or feeling stressed.”
- Sometimes a silent dog is the most stressed dog. So look for other signs of possible stress.
- When a dog is stressed, he will tend to yawn, lip lick and he will not want to make direct eye contact.
- A submissive dog will use his entire body to valiantly convey that he comes in peace and poses no threat when confronted by a dominant dog or imposing person. His ears are down and flat; his eyes are narrow and avoid direct contact; he may attempt to lick or nuzzle the other dog’s muzzle or a person’s face to show deference and respect.
- Extremely submissive dogs may dribble urine or loose bowels during confrontations and tuck their tails.
The most important thing for our Dallas dog walkers and pet sitters to keep in mind, is that the dogs in our care are always communicating with us in one way, shape or form. We simply have to pay close attention to understand what they are saying. Learning about a dog’s body language helps us do that, and allows us to be better caregivers. We encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about dog body language and behavior, so they can have the healthiest and most satisfying relationships possible with their dog(s).