Border Collie Fun and Games

Sneaking up on their buddies
By Karen B. London PhD, October 2014, Updated July 2016

The expressions on these dogs’ faces and their movements captivated me while I watched them sneak up on other dogs in the field.

Dogs often move so fast that it’s hard to see all the details of their body language, but these dogs are stalking so slowly that you can see the tiniest changes in expression or posture. It’s cool to see the muscles along the backs of the two dogs move as they creep forward. The lighter dog ever-so-slightly opens and closes his (her?) mouth during the stalking. Both dogs move their heads a little and their eyebrows a lot during their approach, and I love the way they periodically keep one paw elevated as they pause in their forward motion.

It’s interesting to ponder what makes them move at the same pace as each other and in the particular positions that they are relative to one another. There does not seem to be any conflict about how to approach or at what pace, but it’s not clear how they coordinate that. It could be as simple as one dog following the other’s lead, but perhaps more complex feedback and communication are involved.

It’s likely that these dogs entertain themselves with this sort of activity often, because none of them ever truly startle or look surprised. I wish I knew when the three dogs who were lying down became aware that there were two dogs sneaking up on them. I suspect it was long before they turned around to chase them, but it’s hard to say for sure. Two of the dogs are in a position to see the dogs coming, and the one who is not twitches an ear 41 seconds before turning around to give chase, and has his (her?) head turned towards them several seconds before chasing them. It’s impossible to say what the dog was attending to at either point, but I don’t think the presence of the two sneaking dogs or their actions came as a surprise.

Have you seen your dogs sneak up on each other?

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screen grab from The Collie Walk

Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She has authored five books on canine training and behavior.