Watching my young puppies play with their mother is simply fascinating. We humans think of language mainly as a verbal communication, so we tend to oversimplify dog language as barking, whining and probably because it is so obvious, tail wagging. But if you watch closely you will start noticing so many subtle cues that are easily missed through casual observation. In this particular instance, Holly was playing with a toy, which she strategically placed close to the puppies enticing them into the game. A tug-of-war soon ensued with the puppies clamping on, and pulling harder and harder. Acting bold and cocky they even started growling as they tugged.
All of a sudden Holly stopped tugging, gave them a stern stare and moved her muzzled forward ever so slightly; the pups stopped in their tracks, let go of the toy and immediately adopted submissive postures: belly up, ears plastered back and avoiding eye contact. This whole act probably took less than 3 seconds!
This game was repeated on and on and Holly’s reaction was exactly the same every single time: subtle, fast and right to the point. I could not help but think how ineffective we humans are when trying to correct out dogs. We nag, nag, nag, beg, plead, nag a little more, beg, plead, threaten, yell…Our dogs resort to ignoring us or even escalate the negative behavior in response to our agitation. Wouldn’t it be great if we could also be subtle, fast and right to the point?
Did you know that allowing your puppy to play with his mother and siblings is very important because it allows him to practice “doggie language“? This is something we quite clearly are not capable of doing well. It will make your puppy more accepting of our clumsy human corrections and will also allow him to interact safely with other dogs. Puppies should not be separated from their dam and litter-mates until they are 7 weeks old. By practicing this dog-dog communication your puppy will be able to distinguish threatening or playful signals that the other dogs display. Once you pick your puppy and bring him home allow him to play regularly in small groups of other well socialized dogs. This is a key part of his early training and proper socializing.