Saturday, April 21, 2012

Canine Social Skills Take Two

Living with Ranger and now Finna has taught me a lot about canine body language. I learned quite a bit about the subject from Ranger but Finna has been a master's class on reading canine body language. Thanks to living with them I'm much more aware when interacting with dogs how they are feeling about things and what dogs are saying to each other. At the dog park recently Ranger had had a good long romp and we were heading out to the the car to go home. Ranger, or as we've taken to calling him lately, Saint Ranger the Good, generally doesn't need to be leashed until we get to the gate when I leash him up as a safety precaution while we're walking though the parking lot to our car. About half way to the gate we met a woman bringing in a mixed breed that to my eye was overwhelmed. He was a young dog of about a year that had never been to a dog park before. Ranger and I were being accompanied to the gate by his new Lab mix pal.  This pal never had much opportunity to learn canine social skills and I'd been enjoying watching Ranger interrupt LabX's inappropriate play overtures; Ranger is firmly of the opinion that body slams and muzzle punches are only allowed between dogs who know each other extremely well and play together often. As the pal started to make a straight line toward the newcomer Ranger exerted very subtle pressure by simply leaning slightly toward his new pal and keeping that small amount of pressure on him so that the two approached in a big curve. A curving approach is a calming signal to dogs and I could see the newcomer relax slightly. Ranger then hung back and let his LabX pal greet the newcomer first so that the new dog who was still on leash wasn't overwhelmed with too many greeters at once.

That's about the time I caught up to the dogs and in a friendly manner greeted the owner and suggested that letting her dog off leash would be less stressful for him. As I like to explain it; I'd be pretty uncomfortable if I walked into a party attached to someone's arm and everyone at the party rushed me at once wanting to greet me, touch me, and generally crowd into my personal space. I'd be even more uncomfortable if the person I was attached to made me stay by their side and put up with all this. It would make me much more  comfortable and relaxed to be free to move away and create a little space for myself. Once she'd let her dog off leash Ranger and his pal escorted the new dog back to the other dogs playing and Ranger watched, running occasional interference, until the new dog's tail was no longer tucked. Once it was clear the new dog was going to be fine we left for home.

I never tire of watching Ranger interact with other dogs. He has exceptional social skills and by living with and observing him I'm constantly learning. All in all it was a good day's work at the dog park. Ranger was able to demonstrate good canine etiquette for his new pal and to ease the initial introduction to the dog park for another dog. I was able to share a bit of useful information  with a novice owner that will, I hope, make her dog's life a tiny bit better.

1 comment:

  1. Saint Ranger the Good indeed! Ranger sounds simply amazing. He would probably be wonderful as the playground monitor in a doggy daycare, although it might be too stressful for him as a daily thing.