Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, takes us into the dog’s world in a way few authors have before. She describes in great detail their umwelt: their subjective or self-world.
Not only does the the book provide insights into a dog’s sight, sound and olfactory abilities, it also explains the wondrous dog-human bond. Horowitz asks us to consider what accounts for our bond with dogs, and offers eleven worthy explanations: they’re diurnal, a good size, their body is familiar with parts that match ours, they move more or less the way we do, they have a relaxation to their stride and a grace to their run, they are manageable, we can leave them by themselves for long stretches of time, they are readable, they are resilient and reliable, their lifetime is in scale with ours, and they are compellingly cute. While all of these are relevant she says, “They don’t fully explain why we bond.”
The human-dog bond, we learn, is formed over time. Not just on looks, but on how we interact together. Horowitz suggests that there are three essential behavioral means by which we maintain—and feel rewarded by—bonding with dogs. The first is contact, the second is a greeting ritual, the third is timing (the pace of our interactions with each other) Together, they combine to bond us irrevocably.
Horowitz believes that the bond strengthens and changes us. Physically we are calmed by simply petting a dog, and the social support they offer us reduces our risk for various diseases, from cardiovascular to diabetes to pneumonia, and provides better rates of recovery from the diseases we do get. The bond with our dogs makes us someone who can commune with animals, and according to Horowitz, “a large component of our attachment to dogs is our enjoyment of being seen by them.”
In case you couldn’t already tell—we’re interested in Dog tails and tales. We’re curious about the tails which Anna Swir so perfectly describes in her poem, “Happy as a Dog’s Tail.” And of course, we’re also intrigued by dog tales; classic and popular fiction and non-fiction dog stories, and the priceless ones our DogWatch Dealers and clients share with us.
What do dogs communicate with their tails?
As Dr. Stanley Coren author of How to Speak Dog writes , “In some ways, tail-wagging serves the same functions as our human smile, polite greeting, or nod of recognition…For dogs, the tail wag seems to have the same properties. A dog will wag its tail for a person or another dog. It may wag its tail for a cat, horse, mouse, or perhaps even a butterfly. But when the dog is by itself, it will not wag its tail to any lifeless thing. If you put a bowl of food down, the dog will wag its tail to express its gratitude to you. In contrast, when the dog walks into a room and finds its bowl full, it will approach and eat the food just as happily, but with no tail-wagging other than perhaps a slight excitement tremor.”
Dr. Coren suggests says this is an indication that tail-wagging is meant as communication or language and that the dog’s tail “speaks volumes about his mental state, his social position, and his intentions.” It’s interesting to note that puppies don’t wag their tails when they’re very young.
Dr. Coren says there are differences among the various breeds and that on the average, “By thirty days of age, about half of all puppies are tail wagging, and the behavior is usually fully established by around forty nine days of age…Pups learn to connect their own signals and the signals provided by their mother and their siblings with the behaviors that come next. They also begin to learn that they can use signals to indicate their intentions and to circumvent any conflicts. This is where and when the tail-wagging behavior begins.”
It’s believed that young puppies don’t wag their tails because they need to send appeasement signals to other dogs but when communication between dogs is needed, they rapidly learn the appropriate tail signals. Tail language uses three different channels of information: position, shape, and movement.
Virginia Wells explains position and movement further; “By looking at the position and movement of the tail, you can often tell what dogs are thinking. When a dog wags his tail high and wags it back and forth, he’s usually feeling pretty good. When he is interested in something, his tail is usually horizontal to the ground. A tucked tail indicates the dog is frightened or submissive. When the tail goes from horizontal to upright and becomes rigid, he is feeling threatened or challenged. A tail that is low and wagging indicates the dog is worried or insecure.”
The tail also has another vital role in communicating. Virginia Wells writes, “Every time your dog moves his tail, it acts like a fan and spreads his natural scent around him…A dominant dog that carries his tail high will release much more scent than a dog that holds his tail lower. A frightened dog holds his tail between his legs to keep others from sniffing him, and in that way does not draw attention to himself.”
Take a look at your dog’s tail in different situations: when they greet you after you’ve returned home, as another dog approaches when you’re out walking, during a thunder storm.
What have you noticed about your dog’s tail? What tales could you tell us here?
In a recent blog post, Maria Goodavage wrote about Dogs in Art, a video created by Moira McLaughlin. Moira writes about Dog Art on her blog, Dog Art Today. She’s published over 840 posts about the creative ways dogs appear in every form of art. She focuses on “the joyful depiction of dogs and the eternal bond that they have made with the artists in their lives.” Dog Art Today contains a long list of dog art sites as well as sites for the dog lover.
What’s particularly striking about the Dogs in Art video is Moira’s dedication. She says she had been inspired by a YouTube masterpiece on Women in Art and knew immediately that she wanted to create a video even though she had never done anything like this before. The project took her over two years to complete. Dog lovers are truly an amazing breed!
The list of art shown in the video is quite exhaustive, some dating back as early as 50 A.D., up through the ages to present day artists you may be familiar with and some not as well known. In any case, it’s a masterpiece.
Are you a dog art lover? What are some of your favorite paintings? Tell us about them.
Dog Tails interview with Emily West, DogWatch Hidden Fences of Columbus. Emily and Pat West have been DogWatch Hidden Fence dealers since 1992.
DT: You’ve been a DogWatch dealer for the past seventeen years—what’s your most poignant training experience working with a family and their dog?
EW: Don’t know that there is one particular story that really sticks with us. But the most poignant and satisfying thing is when we run into one of our customers and are greeted with a big hug and they tell us something like “You guys are the reason my dog is alive” or “You have saved my dogs life so many times, I can’t thank you enough.” It is the most satisfying and fantastic feeling in the world to know that you have meant that much to that family. It makes us know what we do is really important to families and their dogs.
DT: What’s your funniest story?
EW: Pat and I differ on our favorite stories. Mine has to do with a pot-belly pig that he trained, but Pat says it isn’t relevant because it isn’t a dog story. If you’d like it anyway, I’d be happy to share.
Pat’s favorite and funniest training story happened several years ago when we got a call that a dog was leaving the yard. The customer didn’t explain over the phone and just asked us to come out as we had to “see” the problem. So when Pat got there, the customer brought him into the kitchen and let the dog out. Pat watched from the window as the big Great Pyrenees proceeded to “walk” on his two back legs right through the fence, all the while making sure his neck and collar stayed above the level of the range of the fence. It was an easy fix as once the range was a bit higher the dog could no longer go through without correction, but it was quite the amazing circus act.
DT: People often have strong personal biases about whether to get a purebred dog, a mixed breed–and some have strong personal preferences for going with a rescue dog? How would you guide people with these decisions?
EW: Regarding pure bred, mixed breed or rescue dogs. Pat and I do have strong feelings about this, but it may not be what you think. Obviously, we feel it’s important to rescue dogs and we’ll always support our local rescues, shelters and Humane Societies.
However, we feel that it’s equally important to get a dog that is well matched to your life style. For instance, we NEVER recommend that anyone gets a dog simply because “it’s cute”. We always encourage people to do research regarding whatever type of breed or mix. Size, shedding, exercise, barking tendencies, temperament around other dogs, temperament around children, and digging habits are all important aspects to look at. And people need to be honest with themselves about what they are willing or not willing to do for a dog before they pick one out.
If people do the necessary research BEFORE they get a dog, Pat and I feel many fewer dogs would end up in shelters. And keeping dogs out of shelters is just as important as rescuing them once they are in shelters.
DT: We’ve noticed that DogWatch of Columbus has many online presences e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Blog, LinkedIn. What interested you in having social media presences? How has it worked for communicating with clients, prospects and others in your industry?