Home > Behavior, Body Language > A Girl & Her Dog

A Girl & Her Dog

Positive reinforcement interactions with our pets makes for strong, trusting, and lasting relationships - Photo courtesy of Rebecca Gerondale.

I think about posting here every day. Boy do I love to write and am going to try to come on here and just post small thoughts or experiences as I see or am involved in them.

Today I was driving down the street about a block from my house. Movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. I was in a residential neighborhood and was driving slow so I had the time to observe a very interesting and powerful interaction. It happened quickly too which made it even more interesting.

A woman was walking from the front door of her house and across her lawn to the side-walk. Something behind her caught my eye. It was a small dog on a long retractable leash. I’m not all that good at identifying dog species but it was small and had an adorable face. Don’t they all? If I had to guess, I would say it was a Lhasa Apso. What was fascinating about the moment was the interaction I saw next. From the best of what I remember, it wasn’t the presence of the dog that made me look in its direction. It was what the woman had done that made me look behind her.

The woman was heading across the front lawn at a casual pace when all of a sudden she stopped and looked behind her. She looked down and about 8′ behind. There in that spot about 8′ behind her she was looking into the face of the dog on the end of the leash. In my best guess and observation of the quick situation at hand, I am assuming she stopped and looked behind her because the dog wasn’t moving. Maybe it was a quick tension in the leash that caused her to stop and turn and look at the dog. If I didn’t think the woman would have thought I was stalking her, I would have slowed down to observe the rest of the interaction. What I observed in those quick few and powerful moments was her reaction to something in regards to the behavior of the dog. She looked at the dog and the dog was standing there looking directly back up at her and into her face. “Wow, what a powerful statement that is” I thought to myself as I continued down the street now focusing on the parked cars on either side of the street making sure I didn’t hit one. She was looking down at the dog and the dog was looking directly at her face. What a clear line of communication there was in that snapshot in time between a girl and her dog. There was a lot of information being shared there at that moment. If I could rewind time, I would have had my camera ready to share this image. That dog was communicating with her and what she did after that I do not know but it stayed with me for a while after that.

I sat in the waiting room at my doctor’s appointment after that and thought “I wonder what the girl did after that.” Why did this stay on my mind? It stayed on my mind because this is how great relationships are formed between girls and their dogs, boys and their pets, families and the outside world, us with each other. I wanted to think that the girl stopped and respected the reluctance in her dog’s behavior. This means she was helping in keeping choice in the dog’s environment which has a major impact on behavior, let alone the impact on a great relationship and bond with each other. If she really knew her dog she would be able to figure out why the dog was stopping and determine what to do from there in the best interest of the two of them together. My mind hit ‘Option B’ in replaying this scenario. She could have then said “Come on. Let’s go.” as she tugged on the leash and continued walking as she pulled her dog a few inches before it gave in and continued to follow behind her. A picture that is probably very easy to visualize.

Not too many years ago, a neighborhood scenario like this would have not even attracted my attention. Neither would the one of my neighbor continually yelling at her son with more and more effort and a gradually increasing coercive tone to her voice as each week passes. As to not leave this post hanging and imaginations running wild, let me mention what I think happened. I think the girl stopped and paid attention to the reluctance in her dog. Why do I think this? I saw her body language. Without going into much detail, her body language was sympathetic or concerning to the reluctance in her dog. It was the way she paused and her relaxed stature that made my mind feel more at ease with assuming she bent over and asked her dog what was wrong. This thought brought a smile to the corner of my mouth as I gazed across the waiting room floor of the doctor’s office waiting room. “Yea, I think she waited for her dog” I thought. The dog’s body language told me so. I wanted this for the girl and her dog. I know how strong this makes for a trusting and happy relationship. The dog looked at the girl as though the girl understood this language. The body language of the girl looked as though she respected this line of communication.

“Lara Joseph”, the woman called as she stood in the door way waiting to take me back to the doctor’s office. “Yep, that’s me!” I said as I stood up and smiled at her. “How are those birds of yours?” she asked me. Boy, do people know how to peak my interest or what?

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