Well here we are back at another Monday with a week ahead of us; good morning. I was doing a shoot yesterday; and as strange as it may sound it was a human shoot, my daughter and one of her best friends. Having thought out a nice scenic area to shoot we visited some of the paths where we walk the dogs. It is very dog friendly and there were indeed friendly dogs there. At one point I was crouched down preparing to get the shot when a couple came by with a Doberman off leash; I immediately repositioned myself. I stood up and took on a casual posture; the dobie had seen me before I changed posture and her ears had shot up. Of course they did.
Posture is a huge part of communication for dogs; how are you holding yourself says a lot. Being hunched down in a frozen posture is not a warm and fuzzy stance; it is taken as highly suspicious. At this same park there are three statues of bears along the pathways. All of my dogs have communicated with them and I think most dogs that pass the statues have had a few words. The statues were made to the size of large dogs; I believe a mother and two cubs but it's been a while. The mother has her head slung low and is of course frozen; it is the frozen posture that is the most disturbing to dogs. As the dog communicates to the bear statues it stands it's ground and does not alter position; worrisome to say the least. Depending on the individual dog will be how they counter communicate; they can be dominant or submissive to this frozen bear family.
The freeze is an amazing communication tool for dogs and for us as well. I am always experimenting with communications and have tossed in a freeze myself; it has great impact. It speaks volumes compared to our human words and waving arms. For example: Your dog is begging at the table; perhaps even so far as she has her head under your arm and on the table, so you freeze. This gives a clear warning message "best to move away." This is how dogs speak to each other; just watch the communications thrown around when one dog has what another wants. It is simple amazing to watch.
At only 15 pounds and 14 years old Jessie is a very experienced professional posture dog. She postures all the time; she is very intimidating to other dogs. She has an air of confidence about her and this frozen posture can illicit many varying reactions all depending on who she is posturing to. For the young and insecure dog it will typically have them getting lower and lower to the ground; eyes squinting and perhaps even a raised paw. Some dogs who are more neutral just steer clear of her; they get her message loud and clear. For the more dominant type dog who sees Jessie's posture; they will typically posture back which is my cue to get moving.
I remember being at a park once when a very young and foolish Labrador came running in a straight b-line towards Jessie. It wasn't paying any attention to her body language until he got very close; I wish I had it on tape. As he ran full speed he suddenly raised his ears taking note of what she was saying; he immediately went into retreat mode, jamming on his brakes. He had been coming in too quickly to avoid a confrontation and knew by the time he got to her that he'd scoped out the wrong dog. He skidded to a stop and hit the ground squinting, flopping and pawing the best he could submissively. Jessie gave him a what for and we moved on; leaving the young and foolish lab to ponder his lesson for the day.
Luke and I were out the other day for a walk when he received a serious warning. This was warning was more than posture; it was a very deep growl accompanied with a hard stare, not good. This dog meant business and Luke did what he should have done and turned his head ignoring the dog. He sniffed the grass around and pretended he did not see this other dog let alone care about it. The dog was laying down; his owner had her foot over him ensuring that he stayed there. This act from the owner may have been why the threat was so escalated but whatever the reason we kept moving.
Often a posture is missed by our human eye and we jumped to the conclusion that there was no warning. There is almost always a warning and in our less that perfect ability to read the signs we simply miss them. Often owners halt communications and reprimand; this is one of the worst things you can do. Take away a dogs communications and you have a dangerous situation. Without a communication display they are left disabled. And we are left in the dark. We all need to be able to communicate.