Dogs speak to us constantly, maybe not by using sound but by using their body language. In fact this doesn’t only go for dogs, but for all animals. Humans tend to speak by moving their lips up and down and making different sounds, of course we also use body language but to a lesser degree than dogs, which has also made us somewhat blind to what our dogs are trying to tell us.
Everyday I see videos or pictures of dogs having their boundaries crossed because their humans do not understand what they are saying, and it isn’t just the owners, but also the comments. Commenting how cute the dog is for having a child sitting on him, when in reality the dog is scared to death.
Today I watched an owner filming his dog, while reprimanding him for pooping inside despite the dog having a doggie door. The poop was right next to the food bowls, which already there should tell the owner that the dog has probably been very distressed and desperate while this incident has happened, as it is very atypical for a dog to poop next to where he eats. Scolding dogs in general for their mistakes is not something I support, but scolding your dog when you have absolutely no idea what has made him have this accident, is just wrong. Maybe something has scared the dog, upsetting his bowl movement, maybe he is sick or maybe something kept him from going in the garden, another animal perhaps – there could be a million of reasons, which only the dog knows, but sadly cannot tell us. Who we really should be scolding is ourselves for not having been there for our dog, for not having helped them. The dog in the video is showing serious distress signs, pressing against the wall, whale eyed, sinking closer and closer to the ground – trying desperately to communicate to his owner, but the owner does not understand and keeps scolding him.
Let me ask you a question – what if you one day had a stomach ache (let’s just pretend that that might have been the same case for the dog), the ache makes it impossible for you to move but you have to go to the bathroom real bad, however someone is using the bathroom right now, you can’t hold it and you have an accident. How would you feel if another person came in and scolded you afterwards? Besides utter embarrassment, you would probably also not like that person very much. Wondering how they could scold you while you were there being sick, maybe even losing a little trust in them for not being there when you did not feel well.
What makes you think that dogs don’t think the exact same way? Why would they trust someone who is scolding them when they are sick? Why would they trust someone who comes home and scold them without knowing the cause of the incident?
My point is not to anthropomorphize dogs, but make us humans think an extra time before we scold our dog, and then try to read what they are telling us through their body language. Is your dog acting normal otherwise or could he be sick? Is everything alright in the garden he has access to or does something look off? How many hours have you left him alone for, is that realistic to expect the dog to hold it for that long?
There are many great sources for learning more about dogs body language, and the dog community is slowly starting to look at their furry companions in a different way. I ask you though – next time you see a video of an animal, try to look at their body language, try to read what they are saying. Maybe then you won’t think that it is that cute when a child hugs a dog, or when an owner scolds at their pet for making a mistake.