Canine Sociology 101

So you all know that I love my dog.  I especially love watching her deal with new dogs, because it amazes me how she’s able to handle pretty much any dog that comes her way.  Case in point:

We’re at a dog park playing fetch.  Enter stage right: new dog, about her size, kinda brown/fawn colored, with owner.  Looks like a big jack russell with maybe some german shepherd thrown in for spice, and colored like a pit bull.  Jessie ignores new arrivals like she usually does for the most part, her motto is “See the ball, be the ball, ignore everything but the ball”.  She’s in the middle of running back with said ball when new arrivals reach the edge of the field, and owner removes leash from new dog.  Jessie arrives at my position, and after her usual 10-15 seconds of chomping on the ball to transfer the maximum amount of droooly happy dog slobber, drops it and prepares for the next volley.  New arrivals are pretty far away at one end of the field to the right, while we’re in the middle, so I launch the ball with my trusty super Chuckit across the field, in the same direction as new arrivals but to the left corner.  And now the fun starts.

New arrival takes off after Jessie like a rocket.  I’m not sure if it’s the ball or the running dog, but it’s making a beeline straight for her.  Jessie doesn’t notice until she reaches the ball, picks it up, and starts heading back.  She sees new arrival tearing for her and stops dead, ball in her mouth.  New arrival stops dead as well, about 15 feet away.  The eyeballing begins.

Jessie stands just looking at new arrival, occasionally chomping her ball.  New arrival stands looking at Jessie, with a kind of possibly aggressive/possibly playful but certainly jumpy stance.  Jessie’s stance seems pretty neutral.  After about 20 seconds of staring (no kidding!) Jessie makes a move to continue to bring the ball back slowly.  New arrival shoots forward, and Jessie stops dead again.  New arrival then walks over to her, and starts sniffing at the ball.  Jessie stays completely still, and after about 2 seconds drops her ball in order to lick at new arrival’s muzzle – a clear calming signal.  New arrival seems to relax a bit, and jessie takes a shot at a friendly butt-sniff.  New arrival is pretty jumpy still, and twitches.  Jessie just stands there, not looking at the dog, while it checks her out.  Apparently satisfied that she poses no threat, but understanding that there’s no interest in playing, new arrival trots off towards owner (who was not paying any attention to this whole exchange).  Jessie watches new arrival until he/she is obviously not interested in her anymore, goes back and picks up her ball (she almost never forgets her ball!), and proceeds to run back to me, slowly at first, but picking up speed. 

And that is how my dog deals with all dogs she’s unsure of.  It’s amazing how she completely smothers any aggressive interest any dog has ever exhibited towards her, without being a total “lay on her back and show her tummy” submissive dog.

Another thing I’ve learned about dog communication is that everything that a dog would do to say “Hey I wanna be friends, maybe you could chill out and then we can play huh?” are nearly exactly what a cat does to say “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!!!”.  Which causes some fairly major communication breakdowns in my house, and generally makes my house pretty lively on occasion.

Aren’t pets great?