Every once in a while, I do on a reading kick. I absolutely love dog books and feel like I've learned a great deal about dog behavior from my mini-library. Well, for Christmas I was excited to add to that collection with another medium- DVD. If there is one DVD I would recommend to any and every dog professional, as well as anyone who wants to know more about their own dog, it is The Language of Dogs by Sarah Kalnajs.
I first watched this video while working at the shelter. The shelter behaviorist lent the DVD to my friend and I, as we both were interested in learning more about safer testing dogs for adoption. Since then, I've been in numerous situations where I would have been bit if I didn't notice the signals I was being given by the dog in front of me. It has also helped me with my own dogs, Skye especially.
Skye loves to use calming signals to tell me when I'm getting frustrated. I don't notice that my voice and body language is getting too intense and confrontational, until my little blue pitbull starts licking her lips and blinking in the most obvious way. She's also a huge fan of the paw raise and the look away. Now when she starts giving me calming signals, its as if a light goes off in my head- "step back and chill out human." The reason I am put in charge of any "questionable" dogs at work is because I can tell what stresses a dog, and how to alleviate that stress in order to safely handle a dog.
So anyway, Merry Christmas to me and, indirectly, my training clients! If you ever have the opportunity to watch this DVD, make sure to take it! Between the really cool footage and organized presentation, it'll be sure to keep your focus.
As a side note, one of the worst traditions we have at work is pictures with Santa for our day campers. We only have one male employee, and he hates being Santa. Maybe it's because he has been peed on, bitten, and generally unappreciated by ever dog that has to sit next to the scary stranger and look at the camera.
Being the understanding trainer that I am, I let my dogs skip this. Oh wait, no I didn't. I dressed them in horrible sweaters and shoved them toward the man in the big red suit. Poor Parker is small enough to be held, so other than killing me with his eyes he was trapped. Once Skye realized that she couldn't escape, she went to plan B instead- play dead. She sat for a treat, but as soon as I stepped back she flopped onto her back and stuck her legs in the air. After a few tries, Santa rejected her from his snowy scene, and Parker became even more internally furious. This was the best shot we could get, and Santa looks just as mad as Parker.