Friday, September 25, 2009

The Canine "Look Away" - with videos

Dogs have a fascinating array of body language signals that allow them to convey messages to each other. Some of the body language is involuntary (reflexive) but others are deliberate. The "Look Away" is one of those deliberate signals that can mean different things in different situations.

A Look Away could be a distance-decreasing signal, i.e. dog uses a Look Away to let another another dog know he's not a threat, or dog uses a Look Away to invite another dog to play. Often a Look Away is quick and subtle, with the head staying level and the neck staying relaxed. In the videos below, you will see distance-increasing Look Aways, with stiffer necks and chin up, as if to say, “I’m not available for social interaction right now. Don't bother me.”

In the video below, 3-year old shepherd mix Heidser does a Look Away to avoid the exuberant black puppy.
Notice that Heidser points her chin up to show her lack of interest. If her chin were down, she might be expressing deference to the puppy.

In the video below, you will see three energetic yellow Labradors running over to 8-year old Golden Retriever Luka (the blonde one). As Luka emerges from the crowd, one of the Lab puppies tries to engage Luka, but Luka stops and does a Look Away with his chin up, which causes the puppy to walk away.

In the last video, you will see Mochi the French Bulldog using Sniffing as a calming signal to the yellow Lab puppy. Sniffing is one of the most common behaviors in dogs, and like the Look Away, can mean various things. In this case, Mochi seems to be telling the puppy, "Calm down and stop bothering me." You'll notice Mochi doing a few Look Aways too, to avoid interaction with the puppy.

We humans tend to think excited puppies are cute, so we often inadvertently reinforce those behaviors. But remember, a cute and bouncy 10-lb. puppy can eventually turn into a hyper 75-lb. dog that is jumping and slobbering all over you! One of the most effective ways for a dog owner to stop a puppy's jumping or over-excitement is to simply ignore the puppy when he's behaving that way - the way the adult dogs above do - and give the puppy attention or affection only when he is calm.

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