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A Useful Approach to Listening to Your Dog is Simple Observation

March 3, 2010

A recent Dear Inquisitive Canine reader asked about her beagle Bill and his enjoyment of playing with larger dogs. I explained the similarities of how humans of different shapes and sizes can learn to play with one another without getting hurt. The best way to tell is to pay attention to his body language. He will “tell” you if he is enjoying it or not very clearly, you just need to be watchful of the signals he is sending. To view the complete article, check out our Dear Inquisitive Canine column.

Regarding this readers comments of how she described Bill’s behavior, I wanted to add this about what to watch for:

From what you’ve described it appears you have a very keen eye for details of Bill’s body language and that you’re “listening” to what he is saying. I say bravo! He’s excited to play with the larger dogs and appears bored with the smaller dogs. Although I haven’t witnessed their romping social functions myself, I’d like to first address your comments “hardly pays attention to us, and becomes the center of attention as he runs around with a pack of big dogs playfully chasing him all over.”

  • Make sure you are still the center of Bill’s universe. He can certainly run off and play with his friends, but work on a nice “coming when called” so he learns to check in with you more often. It’ll be rewarding for him, while enhancing the bond you share. Plus, if you need him to come back to you, for whatever reason, he’s more likely to want to. For additional information on teaching your dog to come when called, check out these dog training tips on Recall.
  • Make sure Bill isn’t being targeted or ganged up on. Even if he keeps going back for more, sometimes horseplay leads to tragedy (as our mothers taught us). One dog can end up being the recipient of all that exuberant doggy energy. You’ll want to make sure the dogs are interrupting themselves, or you interrupt before the energy takes them past the point of no return. Note: you’ll want to check with the daycare staff that play is being monitored carefully for appropriate play.

I have to say this dog guardian was superb on watching our for her dog Bill, as well as “listening” to what he was saying. I would nominate her to be the dog park playground monitor if she were ever interested 🙂


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