Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday 37 - A study in body language

Okay, not quite wordless today as some explanation is required.

This series of shots was taken quite some time ago back when we used to be able to take Bella to a local field (before it became a "dog park"). I'd never seen Bella react to another dog in this way and, being fascinated by the whole thing, I just kept shooting. There are probably 10 dogs playing behind me and, as you can see, the approaching dog's owner was watching the situation carefully. As was I even though it was through the camera lens.

Note: I've added some of my own thoughts to the photos for a thoroughly not-wordless Wordless Wednesday. :\

The first thing I noticed was the approaching dog kept looking away - a calming signal to the little runt watching him. Bella is interested but relatively relaxed in posture and ears.

Bella is getting a little intense here...

so the approaching dog veers off...

and Bella's posture immediately relaxes. (Note the lift of the head and relaxation of the ears.)

This is when I began to think Bella has some Border Collie in her. Not sure what the heck she's thinking here

or here but she's getting pretty intense.

Until wise old dog turns away again.

Look at the ears and position of her head now - she's relaxed, interested and curious. Big dog has completely turned away.

Bella's being such a punk in these next few pictures

but the big dog doesn't seem to be threatened by it

just continues approaching - but not directly -

and watching.

Here I think he finally gives Bella a "watch it, kid" kind of look

and Bella responds appropriately.

Bella still seems unsure - note her body is weighted to her hind legs and leaning away, ready to bolt if necessary.

Finally gets a quick sniff in, big dog realizing he has more pressing concerns than the little twerp,

and Bella just moves along.

She remained fascinated with this big old boy acting very much like a puppy would with a parent dog, taking any reprimand in stride but continuing to seek out the older dog's attention. I've never seen her behave like this with any other dog.

So sorry, I know that's a lot of pictures but I thought it was fascinating to watch the subtle markers on display between the frames by both Bella and the approaching dog.

A touch more background: Bella was just over a year old here and the approaching dog was upwards of 10, if I remember correctly. He was a calm, old patriarch apparently well-versed in puppy tom-foolery.

I'd love to hear everybody's thoughts.


  1. Funny it looks like Bella had her self ready for what ever that dog was going to bring.  But the older wiser one just seemed to tiptoe around her and put her at ease.  Great set of pictures!

  2. Dip Bridge and ElliotApril 25, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    It looks as though Bella was tense and cautious at first but the older dog's body language is very non-threatening and he is giving her space. I think that's what encouraged her to get up and give him a sniff  to make friends.  Those were very interesting photos and really told a story.
    Lynne x

  3. This looks like what Finn does when she's playing around - she almost lays down, but is ready to pounce up when another dog comes near her.  She also does this when my husband is trying to sneak up on her and she can see him...then she jumps on him.

  4. This is just awesome.  I imagined the pictures to be a flip book and as the pages flip you see Bella's body and head get lower and lower and lower.  This dynamic fascinates me. Watching them hide and become invisible. Every time I see my dog and another approach each other like this I vow to do some research to find out what drives this behavior in dogs yet still haven't.  Maybe I finally will now.  Super cool post!  Thank you for sharing.  

  5. Very interesting! I've seen my dog do this at times as well, only usually it's right before she leaps up in an approaching dog's face. I wonder if pouncing is what Bella originally intended as well but the older dog's calm behaviour put her at ease and she chose to sniff nicely instead. Although, judging by her ears and tail in the 4th photo from the bottom, she still was a little over-stimulated - if she is anything like my dog anyway.
    Seeing as you know Bella better than anyone, I'd love to hear your take on these pictures.

  6. Mine do that before pouncing :)

    Stop on by for a visit


  7. Georgia Little PeaApril 25, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    Georgia does it all the time. It's her hunting dog genes, I guess. [Does Bella have any?]

    Unlike Bella, Georgia does the crouch then bounces up and charges at the dogs. Sometimes she swerves at the last minute and immediately loses interest. [Don't know what that's about.] Sometimes, the other dog reacts likewise and they start to play from there. 

    Quite a few dogs in our neighbourhood do it. It's always been just play to them. I have read in some "dog expert" blogs that it's not good behaviour but no one's ever gotten into a fight over it here.  I have lots of pics in my blog with crouch/hunt shots. In fact, I recently did a post where you'll see similar pictures to yours [though not so well shot :)..] where her game was aborted by some littledogs jumping on her! I think it's the one with the dead body ;)

  8. That's a cool series of pictures…. :)

    I try really hard to pick up on the signals other Dogs give me and I often behave differently with different Dogs….

    I hope you're having a fun day, 

    Your pal Snoopy :) 

  9. Ganny used to have a border collie X that behaved in a really similar way to approaching dogs. She was fine with males, but hated other females. Deccy x

  10. Very cool photo series. You captured the moments beautifully :D

    Waggin at ya,

  11. I got nothin.  My dogs usually run flat out to greet the other dog.

  12. I love how the older (gorgeous!) dog doesn't look directly at Bella - and I love how respectful Bella is . .she is so smart!

  13. Yeah, I think Bella was being a bit of a punk but the older dog had perfect greeting skills.  He was a real beauty, too.

  14. LOL - I think we're reading the same books, Lynne, as I had the same take on the older dog.  He was a very good boy. Oddly, his owner said he could be rather cantankerous with young dogs which is why she was watching so closely but maybe Bella didn't push his buttons...

  15. Bella never really does the lying down thing although after this incident, we saw her do, what I call this "Border Collie crouch" often when playing with other dogs. And it is usually followed by a running (playful) assault.  I'm so glad she didn't do that with this big old boy. :o

  16. Oh, I hope if you do some research, you'll share what you discover.  I can figure out some of what Bella's doing here but I really don't understand it all nor do I understand where the behavior comes from.  

    I'm glad you enjoyed the series - it has always fascinated me.

  17. I just added some commentary to the photos on your suggestion.  But I think you're pretty much spot on.  The only that confuses me is Bella is generally afraid of other dogs and doesn't usually do the pounce thing until she knows them and is already playing with them.  I think the older dog's calm demeanor set her mostly at ease but part of me wonders what her fascination with this particular dog was...

  18. I love all your pictures of the dogs GLP gets to play with.  I'm not sure it's "rude" unless the other dogs aren't into it as well. I think since all your dogs know each other, they're past the point of it really being rude - it's more like it's custom. :)

    We're pretty sure Bella's got some bit of hound in her but, to tell the truth, she's a terrible hunter.  She can catch slugs but she scares everything else off.  Which is strange because she can be stealthy when she wants to be - just in a herding dog kind of way, not really a hunting dog thing.

    And lol - yes, I remember that post - the whole 'body in the park' thing kind of sticks with you... GLP is a little big to really "hide" in the grass, isn't she? Not sure she's noticed though. ;) lol

  19. You're such a well-trained, well-socialized dog, Snoops.  I think it's smart to be able to read other dogs signals and behave according to what you see. I wish Bella had more dogs like you and this lovely old boy around so she could get comfortable with reading those signals herself.

  20. Yeah, I see a lot of Border Collie in Bella now that she's growing up.  And I see there are certain dogs/types of dogs that set her off more than others.  

    Of course, I can also now identify her play style which partly leads to which dogs she likes and which she doesn't. I think she's friends with Gus (the Borzoi) and his 'sister' Molly (the Greyhound) because they don't rough-house, they chase. Bella likes to run. :)

  21. Thanks.  It has fascinated me for quite some time - wasn't sure how best to put it up here but this seems to have worked okay.

  22. LOL - yeah, I think breed has a little to do with that. ;)

    Bella, of course, is the big scared-y dog so I suspect there's some of that on display here.  I'm still curious about her fascination with this big old boy since she's seldom shown that much (restrained) interest and deference to another dog.  Hmmm....

  23. Yeah, the old boy gets it, doesn't he?  (And oh yes, he was absolutely lovely.)  Bella did okay, given her circumstances, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Sometimes she still surprises me with how smart she can be.

  24. Very cool - it's neat to watch it all play out, especially seeing how the older dog approached so as to keep the situation in control.

  25. LOL - yeah, Bella's not usually that discreet. ;)

  26. Junebug thinks she's an ambush hunter. So she goes down like that, staring intensely at the other dog. In a case like this, where the other dog seems aware, and ready to avoid confrontation, she might decide not to wait for him to get close enough and get up and run at him anyway, or she may get bored and go from a prepared pounce to just lying on the ground. Luckily for us, it's not something we have to worry about because she isn't a reactive dog (well, not in that way). However, we do usually make a comment about which dog she wants to pounce loud enough for that dog's people to hear it, so that they are prepared. 
    June's biggest hope is that it will cause the other dog to chase her, but it usually just ends up in her charging over there, then slowing enough for everyone to sniff, and off we go.

  27. This is a great series of pictures! Your comments really made everything come together. Bella is so intense, definitely brings border collie to mind. The older dog had the most expressive face; he reminded me of Aslan from Narnia in the last picture.

  28. We cats approach each other in exactly the same way: the eye contact and the tails and efurry thing!

  29. Yeah, that old dog was really so good with her - it was amazing to watch and I can't believe I actually remembered to lift the camera to get some shots. ;)

  30. Aww, so cute.  In general, I find dogs are pretty tolerant of each other at least at first.  A dog that wants to play may not be greeted with much enthusiasm, but they're not going to get told off right away either - just a "calm, go away kid" usually seems to be enough.  Again, for most dogs.

    I was curious about what would happen here because Bella was only just getting used to dogs at this point.  I'm still curious what it was about this particular one that caught her attention so though.  

    Oh, and a heads up to the other dog's owner is always a good idea.  This owner was watching her own because I guess he had the tendency to be a little 'snark first and ask questions later' with rambunctious pups.  However, in this case he was just perfect.

  31. OMD yes!  I knew there was a 'feeling' I was getting from him and it is, it's Aslan!  So calm and self-assured.  He really was a beautiful guy.  (Probably still is, I just haven't seen him since... Didn't want anyone to think something happened to him...)

  32. I've seen cats do that crouch thing too, usually with a tail swatting slowly behind them.  Hmmm.  I've always said Bella is part cat. (She washes herself, especially her face, like a cat.)