Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Should be Dead According to this Poster

I am guilty of every single "don't do it" thing on this poster. How did I manage to survive into adulthood? I suppose part of it is reading the dog in his entirety and adjusting my behavior to respond accordingly. Perhaps, luck.

A couple days ago, there was a big 'ol Husky in the back of a pickup truck. "Hey," I said,  nodded my head and then said in a girly voice, "You are super duper awesome handsome." And you know what? He wagged his butt, placed his head on the side of the truck and was all "I know. Please. Approach". I didn't because Mina was all "Oh hells no jerk, I will eat you and your mama." and then he was all "Try it, bitch."

Or outside of Petco, I saw a woman with a Pit Bull puppy and I immediately pulled into a parking spot, leaped out, and demanded (asked, whatever) to pet the dog. Not only did I squeal at the puppy, I stuck my face in his because he was sticking his face in mine and licking off several layers of epidermis. That's skin. I'm surprised I have a face left.

On the flip side, my mom and I were walking past a big Rottweiler in the bed of a pick-up truck. He gave us a nice, soft look, but he was also tense and woeful. I told him all about how gorgeous he was and how he should really have more self-esteem and confidence. And he just sorta stared at me all baleful like. I didn't bother him any further, because how rude would I be?

There are several studies that show humans are pretty decent at reading dog behavior. Instinctively, on some level, we recognize certain behaviors and translate them. Humans, unfortunately, have created myths around dog behavior - like a wagging tail = happy dog or that hackling = aggression. We've been told that eye contact = direct challenge and that yawning/panting = tired dog. Or that showing teeth = bad dog. We look to the parts and forget the whole.

Like Mina? She is patently offended if you do not make eye contact with her. She will go to extra lengths to stare at you until your eyes meet with hers, and then she will lick you, because that is how she rolls. Celeste? She is comfortable with minimal eye contact and if you offer it harshly or for too long, she bring out the big guns - the submissive grin. Mina piloerects like all get-out, and because it is a sign of arousal and hyperactivity, it could mean Mina is about to get all angry or play. Usually it's the latter. Celeste does not piloerect. Except maybe around parked motorcycles and that's because she's patently afraid of them.

I'm not suggesting ignore the good advice on this poster. I think the message would be more powerful if the "do this" was at the top and more prominent, but that's me. Do take each dog individually. Look at how all the parts work to make the complete package.

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