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The dog rides another dog and 5 other movements that “say” something: How they are interpreted

What does it mean to lift a dog’s leg, but also what does it mean to try to ride another dog while it is not in estrus. See how your four-legged friend’s foot movements are interpreted

One of the ways the dog expresses itself is its legs.

And they have a lot to tell us, if we are able to interpret them correctly.

With the help of Ms. Angelika Herra, a VSA-CDT Positive Dog Trainer, we learn what our dog is trying to tell us when he communicates with us on his feet.

“A dog has body language as the main means of communication and expression of its emotions.

Depending on the movement and direction of his head, mouth, ears, but also his eyes, hair and tail – and in general the posture of his body – in each environment, he communicates his emotional state to us. Similarly, when he uses his legs as a means of expression – in different ways – he wants to express different feelings, or some need.Ακολουθούν περιγραφικά τα πιο συνήθη.

1. Search for our attention

If, for example, while we are working on our computer, the dog comes and touches us persistently with his paw, it indicates his need for play, or contact with us.

2. As a calming signal by Turid Rugaas

Lifting one foot, or simply the foot, is one of the calm signals that a dog uses when it feels threatened, scared, or anxious about a stimulus.

Calm signals, as Turid Rugaas called them, are the movements / expressions that a dog communicates in order to calm itself, but also to calm down the supposed or real threat it faces.

It’s a way of de-escalating the tension.

3. Consent – call

A dog that touches us with its paw, can express its consent to offer him caresses. It is not enough to get permission from the guardian of a dog before approaching him.

We must respect the dog itself.

You can do the following consent test – the so-called consent test – on your dog. Start stroking him gently in front of his chest and after a while stop.

If the dog seeks to move its paws towards you, it means that it also wants your company and touch.

4. Feeling of submission

During intense play between two dogs, there is a chance that at some point one of them will lie on his back with his two front legs raised, as a sign of submission and the end of the game..

It is a way to express to the other dog that he is “surrendering”.

5. An indication of dominance over another dog

A dog that rides another dog with its front legs – as long as it is not in estrus – tries to dominate. Otherwise, if the dog rides on an object in the house (eg a curtain), or a person, it is a sign of anxiety and worry.

It often happens to dogs when guardians receive visitors into their home.

In case our dog feels uncomfortable with our guests, it is better to isolate him in a safe place along with some play or chewing toy and soft music.

6. Indication of a specific need

If our dog persistently knocks on a front door or a balcony door with his paw, he probably feels the need to go out for his toilet.

It would be useful to have a bell hung, so that at every call of the dog to go out he will be able to alert us more easily and from a distance.

7. A cute trick

We can “capture” the lift of our dog’s front foot, rewarding him every time we see him do it, and thus teach him to greet, giving his paw.

This, in addition to a cute trick, is also useful during our visit to the vet. For example, for blood sampling.

We humans use from a young age, mainly, the right or left hand. The same thing happens with dogs. The left hemisphere of their brain controls the right side of the body and the right, the left.

The left side of the brain is activated with positive emotions (joy, excitement, tenderness, intimacy, etc.), while the right side with negative emotions, such as fear, insecurity, sadness, or discomfort.

Consequently, the dog’s preference for more frequent use of one foot over the other indicates its predominant behavior in general.

Studies have shown that dogs with a preference for right-footed use are more flexible / positive in new situations and less reactive to stimuli.

Unlike dogs who prefer their left paw, and show more reactive behaviors towards strangers.

Dogs that had no particular preference for left or right paw reacted to loud noises.

At the same time, dogs with a strong preference for a particular paw had higher self-confidence, playfulness and less anxiety.

By carefully observing our dog, we are able to understand the emotional state he is experiencing, depending on what has preceded his behavior.

For example, if on returning home the dog has done something unacceptable to us humans, and we shout at him, his reaction will likely be to squat his torso, lower his head, and raise his left leg or paw.

This indicates fear, uncertainty – not guilt, as many guardians mistakenly “translate” (anthropomorphism). The term anthropomorphism means the tendency of man to attribute human characteristics or qualities to non-human beings, e.g. guilt, jealousy, revenge, remorse, etc.

The dog, out of fear, tries to calm down, giving some of the dogs “calm signals”, communicating that he is not hostile towards us.

Another example is a dog playing happily with a toy, using its right paw to approach it.

It is important to observe and interpret correctly the signals that our dog emits, always in relation to the environment around him.

It is also perfectly legitimate and necessary to respond empathetically to his needs, providing him with relief, emotional security and stability. So that he can feel confidence in our face “.

Ms. Angelika Herra is a VSA-CDT Positive Trainer, a Certified Member of the Doggone Safe (Dog Bite safety Educator) and the head of the ACG Alumni Stray Action Committee. He also participates voluntarily in animal welfare activities.


The Secret Language of Dogs, Victoria Stilwell 2016


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