In her new book, canine behavior specialist and prolific author Nicole Wilde focuses on the challenges of and around multi-dog living. Even those who live with only one dog will find the author’s coverage of a comprehensive training program to be of interest. The book is arranged in six parts. The first shows how to keep a very useful behavior diary (to facilitate learning more about canine body language). We then move to setting up a foundational program to help manage triggers, and strategies for success. Part three looks at useful behaviors that can help us recognize and create the optimum level of control, and in the next section, we learn techniques and protocols for handling specific problems such as resource guarding and how to safely walk dogs together. The fifth section covers useful interventions, including natural remedies and pharmacological options. Finally, because sometimes intra-dog problems require outside expert intervention, the author concludes with a resource guide to help us with the next steps. In summary, this book provides us with the tools we need to be better observers of our dogs and to develop successful behavior protocols. Read our interview with Nicole Wilde.
This is one of the most important pieces of canine body language you will ever learn about, and one that many dog owners miss. I cannot tell you how many times I have been called in to a home to help with a situation where the owner believed that one dog was starting fights when in reality the other dog had been giving hard stares, to which the supposed offender had simply reacted. I grew up in New York riding the subways and I can tell you with certainty that whether on a New York subway or between dogs, nothing good ever comes of a hard stare!
A hard stare—the “evil eye” as one of my training clients refers to it —is a threat, plain and simple. It is instantly perceived as such by other dogs. The focused, non-wavering gaze is often accompanied by a complete lack of movement in the body. As a trainer, I would much rather face a dog who is lunging and barking at me than one who is standing stock still, head slightly hung, glaring. While the first dog is certainly not a happy camper, he is spending his energy on making lots of noise with the intention of scaring me away. The second dog, however, is conserving his energy. When he explodes, watch out!
A hard stare may be seen when a dog has something in his possession he does not want to share, as in the example of Daisy and Duke. The head will most likely be lowered either slightly or completely over the item, and the stare might be accompanied by a low growl. A hard stare can happen in a wide variety of circumstances. Let’s say one of your dogs is sitting with you on the couch and the other approaches in the hopes of being petted. The dog on the couch might give a fleeting hard stare that goes unseen by you, especially if he is facing away from you at the time. If the other dog responds by growling or snapping, it might seem as though your other dog had approached and started a conflict, when in reality it was the dog next to you who was the instigator.
Observe your dogs carefully. If there is a situation that typically causes tension between them, watch their eyes. Is one giving the other a hard stare? If so, that could be your cue to take action before things escalate.
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Excerpted from Keeping the Peace by Nicole Wilde, copyright © 2018 by Nicole Wilde. Published by Phantom Publishing. Used with permission.