Dingo Lingo!

My apologies for the title because Ray is clearly not a Dingo, but Dingo Lingo did have a nice flow to it, and we do have a number of Followers in Australia!

Ray, being my first “live-in” dog, has been an amazing education in so many ways. I knew that dogs wagged their tails when they were happy, but Ray showed me that how he wags his tail is probably more important than when he wags it, and can offer some very different messages which were advisable to learn!

He is a very “drooly” dog so seeing him having bouts of constantly licking his lips was to be expected …….. wasn’t it? Well, certainly not! Lip licking can be a sign of stress. I would have never come to that conclusion on my own. When Ray rolls over on to his back, is it because he would love a tummy rub (no lip licking) or is it a submissive “really prefer not to have to do this” gesture (lip licking)?

Working on improving Ray’s doggy social skills dictated we offer Ray a treat as soon as he sees another dog but before he tenses up over the possible meeting.. That piece of timing is critical if we want him to understand the message that we are trying to teach. To clarify that, we do not want him to learn that he gets a treat whenever he gets stressed over meeting another dog. In fact, quite the contrary, we want him to learn that good things happen (treats) when another dog approaches so there is no need to get stressed.

With the aid of a B.A.T. Course (Behaviour Adjustment Training), it was observed that Ray would turn his head slightly towards whoever was holding his leash whenever he saw another dog. This was explained as likely his way of looking to us for direction. The critical point – treat time!

There are so many other messages that we can learn by observing (and asking the right questions to the right people)! Why did Ray feel it necessary to bark initially at people and dogs who were approaching him? It now surprises me when I hear people apologizing for their dog’s persistent barking with “It’s what dogs do!” No doubt there are numerous reasons why a dog will bark but most, if not all, could probably be identified and subsequently addressed.

The main point of this Post however is simply body language!

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What on earth does this mean? Those of you who do not know Ray (99.9% of you) can be forgiven for concluding that he is simply dealing with an end of nose irritant. We, however, know him better and can speculate on some possibilities.

“How about some freshwater? That stuff in the bowl is warm and has dead things in it!”

“Go for a walk now? Are you mad?”

“Bet you can’t do this!”

“This is what I think of that idea!”

21 thoughts on “Dingo Lingo!

  1. HI Colin – another informative post. I was interested to know more about the B.A.T. you mentioned. Is this a formal course or educational program? Any info you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
    – Mike

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    • Hi Mike: It was a formal program of once/week over 6 week period and was set up to include a variety of dogs (all with social and/or security issues). The trainer soon knew which dogs were potentially easy matches and she slowly started introducing more difficult dogs to each other. Her main goal was to orchestrate the introductions for maximum success, and also observe to see what dogs gave what signals so that the owners could continue the positive reinforcement training for as long was needed after the program had finished. Hope that helps. Regards. Colin.


  2. Dogs work by body language, not strictly on commands. I’ve learned that over the years. I can stand with my hand on my hips, not saying a word and Oreo knows he’s been bad.

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  3. The tail says so much especially for cats. I can usually (and I’m not sure my cats would agree) can read what my cats want — attention, leave me along, food please, litter box full, etc. Most people don’t understand when pets want to be petted or touched and when they don’t. My husband petted a dog he didn’t know without asking the owner. The dog was friendly and wagging his tail….still not a good idea. We had a dog lesson on the way home!

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    • The sad part is that if somebody touches a dog and it turns and barks or snaps, it is seen to be a problem dog. For some reason they cannot draw a parallel of them being approached by a 30ft tall, 400lbs stranger who suddenly reaches out to touch them! Or they are reaching down to a dog that has an abused past and is justifiably nervous of humans. Thanks for providing the dog lesson! 🙂

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  4. Great post..we do have to become body language aware..a wagging tail not always a good thing..as you say..i know the same goes for the cats here..and the confusion between dogs and cats is always interesting..cat wags tail..yay play time..umm no cat wags tail it is about to whack you pup! being aware of their actions is crucial 🙂

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  5. They are so fascinating! You’ve done so well to learn a lot of his lingo. It’s fun to watch two of them together, like ours, but also complicated when walking, trying to anticipate their double bad behaviour. They get defensive when seeing other dogs & bark, setting each other off. Classic unsocialized dog behaviour, and a curse of the adoptive dog parents!

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      • He needs a doggie matchmaking service 😉 The story goes that Tillie’s first adopter took her to the local pound to find her a friend, and she ‘chose’ Elvis! They’ve been together 6 or 7 years, but unfortunately it appears that they didn’t socialize with other dogs – probably compounding any issues each one already had. Perhaps one day though Ray and yourselves can give it a go, maybe try fostering!

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        • The “compounding existing issues” is exactly our concern (and verified as a strong possibility by dog trainer friends). Resolving Ray’s separation anxiety is our biggest challenge and we do not want to risk another dog setting him back.

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