What is Body Language Bites? This is where I will be offering bite sized bits of body language practice in the form of photos and short videos broken down into what I see, what I prioritize and my takeaway as a certified dog trainer. Yes, pun very much intended.
Body language is a tough thing for people to accurately decipher. It's a whole new language, mainly nonverbal, complete with dialects, context specific meanings and minute, nuanced differences, all of which can change from second to second. On top of this, we’re attempting to decode emotional states and communication from a species that sees the world in a completely different way, with different thought processing to boot. We will never be able to see into the minds of dogs directly, but body language gives us important clues. A good understanding of dog body language can improve the bond between you and your dog and aid your training goals immensely. A poor understanding however, can lead to conflict, unmet needs (yours and theirs both) or even incidents that risk the safety of your dog and those around them. The good news is that with practice, anyone can improve their observation skills!
There is a format I aim to stick to and I encourage you to practice it not just when following along with these blog posts but when and wherever you encounter dogs. That format is: careful observation of all available body parts and context first, then guarded interpretation which is subject to change with more or updated data. It is so easy to misunderstand or just plain miss important pieces of information when we let the intuitive, shortcut loving system of our brain run the show rather than our conscious, controlled and logic based mental systems. If you've read Daniel Kahneman's wonderful book Thinking, Fast and Slow, which I highly recommend, you know exactly what I mean.
Body language and communication-behavior is something I have always been passionate about capturing and deconstructing. I'm excited to share with you what I've learned as a behavior professional and to get you thinking about what it is you're really seeing. Perhaps you’ll notice things I didn’t? Prepare your thinking cap and get excited to see dogs!
As my most readily available muses, you'll be seeing my own dogs quite a bit.