How Well Do You Understand Your Dog?

by Jim Navary

If you have a pet pooch, chances are that he or she knows more about you than you know about him because he has made a close study of your habits.

If you doubt that, tell me how he knows that when you grab your car keys and your wallet you are about to “go for a ride”.

They also learn quickly how to discover if you are sad or cranky or ready to play with them. They learn the time and place for family meals and the time and place when it’s bed time.

In return for all of this, how much have you bothered to learn about your dog? Most likely not one-tenth as much as he has taught himself about you. Yet it is really quite easy to learn once you put your mind to it.

Barking Dog

Barking Dog

Barking serves many different purposes. Sometimes it is used to repel and sometimes to attract. Some barking styles indicate, “go away,” whereas others can be interpreted to mean, “I’m over here, where the heck are you?” Even the most inexperienced of dog watchers will notice that dogs have a variety of different types of barking ranging from the muted woof of appreciation, to the sharp pitched yelp of alarm, to a the loud string of angry barks indicating aggression.

I think it was Sir John Lubbock, 19th century British behaviorist, who noted that a dog’s bark is an effort to copy the human voice. Wild dogs, he pointed out, do not bark. Neither do their cousins the wolves, nor does any member of the canine family that has not heard humans speak or the barking of domestic dogs.

There is all the difference in the world between a bark and a growl. When a dog barks he flings his head high, leaving the throat exposed. It is definitely not a war cry. But when he growls he lowers his head in order to protect the vulnerable throat area, preparing for an impending attack.

When you walk up the path to a house and the family dog comes barking to meet you, you are in no immediate danger. But if he advances toward you, growling and with his head lowered and his tail as stiff as a ramrod, then look out for trouble.

If you stand absolutely still with your hands on your chest not one dog in ten will actually bite. However, if you make threatening gestures, or if you turn and run, your chances of one or more bites are extremely high. A strange dog’s growl should never be disregarded by anyone who values his skin.

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