Friday, December 6, 2013

Communication in Pictures: Shy

The Occasion!
PBS Nature documentary shoot about a Border collie named DriftWood who is missing his back paws and has prosthesis. You can find out more about DriftWood here 

The Story!
A number of trainers were asked to participate with their dogs in a mock puppy class to show how DriftWood manages life without back paws and how he relates to dogs. 
I was one of the invited trainers and, in lieu of my own pup, handled my clients' brand new duck tolling retriever, 9-week-old Cookie. At the time she was on the leash for about 4 days, and for the first time since she left the breeder in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people and dogs. 
Also invited was a good friend who came with her 6 months old Border collie Lauchie, who was, at the time, a bit cautious around some other dogs. Because of his own lack of bravery, methinks, he tried to befriend the youngest and least “intimidating” pup: Cookie. The fact that I was a familiar person might have contributed to that. The toller, however, was not at all sure that making friends with the collie was a great idea. 

Notice the collie’s lowered body, appropriate sniffing, not at all being pushy, at one point lying down and rolling on his back, goofily enticing her to play. He tried his best to be sweet and solicitous. 
Look at the toller’s clamped mouth, her slight curved body away from him, her sitting on purpose to prevent him from sniffing her butt. By the way, that can be an indication of confidence that might surface when she is a bit older. 
It is worth to mention that I initially had Cookie in my arms, and would have picked her up again had she indicated that she wanted off the ground. There is nothing wrong with providing your pup or small dog with a safe place when she is nervous. 

The End!
After awhile, Cookie became quite inquisitive, and confidently checked out the training facility and equipment, sniffed some of the other dogs briefly, and then happy-tailed continued to interact with me and her owners.  
Had she been really fearful instead of being shy and needing some time to acclimate, we would have called the session off or increased the distance. 

All the pups in class sniffed the other dogs briefly, but then explored and worked on things with their humans. That’s how my friend Aimee, who was the instructor, runs her classes, and I like it. Nothing against play, that is important for puppies too, but more than ongoing free-for-all out-of-control roughhousing, they need to learn that exploring with their owners, and staying focused and re-orienting to them, all in the proximity of other dogs, is rewarding. That’s what dogs need to do in real life. 

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