Here we are at yet another TGIF. This was not a great week for me and I am hoping the ones in the future will be more productive. This flu is really hanging on and just keeping me down enough to hold me in a sort of limbo. So today I will try to get things together and move on from this stupid flu.
I have been thinking alot about eye contact of late, other than body language it is everything in the dog world. There has been alot of averting eye contact in my house with the whole "new toy" and claiming issues. In my 9 years of training I only had 2-3 instances where I had to quickly avert my eyes due to not paying close enough attention to the canine I was working with.
As you know I am all about body language and behavior and these couple of dogs caught me off guard while I was discussing behavior issues with their guardian. One was a very large hound rescue who was having a difficult time adjusting to his new home life. He was doing well with his canine companion and his family but the issue was when new people came into his home and it was becoming increasingly worse.
So there I was in the familyroom sitting in the corner chair, I had already read this guys body language which had told me he was uncomfortable with my presence. As I discussed his behavior indepth with his guardian; he was mustering up some bravado when I glanced at him. When I took at peek he happened to be an inch away from my face which makes me uncomfortable. It would have been best to ignore him but as I had been discussing his behavior with the guardian he caught me off guard and I looked at him.
He was immediately threatened and reacted the only way that made sense to him, he startled and barked a huge, deep hound bark in my face. Up went the hair on my neck as I quickly averted my eyes and my body to diffuse the situation. This guy was very suspicious and was going to take alot of work on my part to show him I meant him no threat. Isn't it amazing how once glance from your eyes can change everything.
My Luke is all about eye contact and when someone comes into my home it is imperative that they not look at him. He likes to challenge new people in my home, not in a real bad way but definitely in an annoying way. Many, many canine behavior problems can be solved by averting eye contact. Exciting or submissive peeing can completely go away by having people not look at your dog when they come into your home. When working with fearful dogs; whom I have a soft spot for the first thing we get rid of is eye contact.
Dogs watch our eyes, so if you use your eyes to speak to them they clearly read our messages. A good experiment for anyone to try is when your dog is moving in on something good that you are eating, lets say pizza; almost all dogs want a slice. Try pushing your dog away, it doesn't work great; they typically seem annoyed by it and keep coming closer. Getting mad and yelling works for a moment and then they are back again. Now try direct eye contact, also use your body posture. Freeze in position and stare directly at your dog. Now if you have never done this before you may get several different reactions.
What my dogs do is immediately move back and sit. I have given them a clear message that this is my Pizza and they will not be getting any by moving in on it. You may get shifting and questioning eye aversion. You may get the questioning stare or if you have up to this point never enforced any rules you may actually get a defiant bark. If you get a bark then you know that you have work to do. A bark says "hey, don't try to tell me not to eat this pizza."
Its all in the eyes.