Sunday, June 2, 2013

A wagging tail does not equal a happy dog!

We brought Turbo for a walk on the canal today. We've been trying to do this weekly as it is a popular place for walkers, bike riders, and runners.. and people often bring their dogs. I think this is a great first step towards socialization for Turbo, just getting used to being in proximity to strangers and dogs without the threat of them coming at him or giving him reason to feel uneasy. So far it's been going very well.

Today while we were there we met a very friendly small dog who wanted to come sniff Turbo. Turbo was definitely interested, but once the 2 dogs got nose to nose, Turbo didn't seem so sure anymore. His tail was wagging as if he were happy, but the rest of his body was very stiff as if he were stressed or uneasy.

My husband was holding the leash, so I told him to start walking again.

The owner of the little dog said "It's okay, tails are wagging, everything is fine!"

That is very untrue! You cannot always tell a dog's mood by it's tail.. especially since different dogs have different types of tails, some have no tails at all.. so you can't tell if it's a good wag or a bad wag.
Here is a website with some information about how to differentiate between tail wags: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/3542

The fact is, Turbo's body was stiff, and this was a better indicator of his mood than his wagging tail. Chances are, if we didn't start walking again, Turbo may have gotten so uncomfortable about the little dog being that close to him, that he might have snapped at the little dog.

Mr. Little Dog Owner is lucky that I know a bit more about doggy body language than him.. but he may not be so lucky the next time his tiny pooch meets an unsocialized dog!

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