It’s quite common for people to have the best intentions to be friendly to a dog and yet inadvertently come across as rude, annoying, or threatening when it comes to the dog’s natural instincts and perceptions.
Those who work with dogs professionally have learned that using our body language to help our furry friends feel comfortable and comfortable around you is indeed a good art. Unintentionally providing intimidating or unpredictable cues with our body language can result in a scared, confused, or even aggressive dog. A separation between what we want to say and what our body language expresses can lead to significant discomfort for them.
Here are some key differences in our body language from what our dog perceives, as well as some tips to improve the connection.
Make eye contact
From a cultural point of view, direct eye contact is usually well-tolerated and is even admired. Typically, when a person avoids eye contact, they are perceived as shy, untrustworthy, unreliable, or just plain rude. We, therefore, try to make eye contact with our dog in order to create a feeling of connectedness and warmth. Unfortunately, dogs don’t see it that way! For dogs, direct eye contact is perceived as a threat or challenge, while gently looking away is a sign of respect or respect.
Tip – When approaching a new dog, or if your own pooch seems a little cautious as it approaches, try looking over the head or to the side instead of looking directly in the eyes. When the dog is comfortable, you can try making brief, gentle eye contact and see how he reacts. If their body language stays relaxed and they continue to approach you in return, they may be comfortable with little eye contact, but take it slowly.
Stroke it immediately or make hand contact
As humans, when we are first introduced to someone we will usually reach out and give a nice, firm handshake. Similarly, when we approach a dog, we tend to touch it immediately, often reaching out and boldly patting it on their heads. Some dogs may not mind it, others will tolerate it, but a lot of dogs don’t like it at all, which makes sense when it comes to their natural instincts.
Tip – Allow a dog to get acquainted with you before contacting you without your consent. When you meet a new dog, ideally let them offer the first contact. When it is time to take the first step, carefully reach up with an open hand, keeping the palm up and keeping it lower than the chin. Let them sniff forward. You can then gently scratch them under your chin or behind your ear. If the dog seems insecure, he may not be ready for so much physical contact just yet. If so, you respect his message and give him space to explore further in his own time.
Our body orientation
Much like direct eye contact can feel like a threat to a dog, it can also feel offensive if a human approaches you from the front with a direct approach. They can also feel anxious and uncomfortable when we bend over or hover over them. When you see a professional dog trainer in action, they usually kneel on their sides and avoid eye contact when making friends with a new dog, and often offer an open hand near the floor.
Tip – Take a sheet of paper from the professional’s book. The more cautious a dog appears, the more important it is that you take the time not to appear aggressive. Turn to the side, make yourself appear smaller, and move gently and not threateningly. Of course, if an excited Lab comes up to you, you can relax a little and not have to worry about avoiding a front-on approach – but it’s still best to avoid head-pats and hover over them.
In general, becoming aware of how your physicality affects your dog is a good place to start. Sudden or irregular movements can alarm and make them nervous. They may tolerate hugs, but are they actually completely comfortable when they are so restricted? Take the time to notice your dog’s subtle cues and find ways to make him feel as safe and calm as possible.
Despite our great love for one another, humans and dogs have surprisingly different needs and perceptions when it comes to body language. Learning more about the best ways to communicate with them and become more comfortable can only add to the special bond we share with our beloved furry friends.