Misread Messages - Our Dogs Often Know More Than We Do
Last weekend, I posted on Facebook that Koa didn’t seem to want to stay at the Venice Dog Beach Park and that it was a matter of not reading his “energy” correctly. Some wonderful people read that as he was not feeling well, perhaps even from the heat, and were concerned about his recovery. Koa & I love you guys for the sentiment but it actually made the point of this post. If we misread messages and assume we know what we’re seeing, then the message is not delivered.
Koa & I had been at the dog beach the previous day and everything was great; we stayed 2 hours and had a fun time. On Sunday, however, he didn’t seem to be feeling it. First of all, someone driving their private limo had parked in a very confined area of the parking lot and blocked most of the lot (both coming and going). Their dog, from inside a closed car, was absolutely out of control while the owner sat in the car with apparently no correction. On the way to the entrance, other dogs were barking at the previous one (to correct where pack leader was not) and THEIR owners were not controlling that.
Once inside the grassy dog park area, Koa came in, turned around, and stared at the gate to leave. It took me having to approach him to get him to follow and he was incredibly slow to walk down to where the beach is (about 100 yards). The beach has quite a wide expanse and it was a little crowded, with lots of dog noise, in one area so I opted to go further down where it was almost entirely deserted. When I put down my things, Koa was still standing where we had entered the beach area and hadn’t moved; again, odd.
I went back and had him accompany me to the water, a straighter and closer path than back to the towels. And the energy of the owners could not have been worse. One particular large dog was humping every dog nearby with all of the owners standing there and laughing that “you can’t do that – that’s a boy dog!” We walked beyond that, but on the return trip this same dog comes out of nowhere and tries humping Koa. Since he was walking behind me I only heard Koa bark and then growl, which still didn’t send a message. I went back over to Koa and since Koa had moved the other dog was trying to re-engage and I had to touch correct the other dog and he apparently got the message. No one said anything (lucky for them) because no one was paying attention to a dog that clearly needed management.
Afterward, even though Koa got in the water, it still didn’t seem that he wanted to stay. And that’s when it hit me: I had misread his message that “this is the wrong energy at the beach and we shouldn’t stay.” And he was correct because it was a real aggravation even when we were much farther away. Why had I missed that? Because I was reading the behavior and not the message from Koa’s energy.
There are 2 take-aways from this: First, read your dog’s energy and messages they are trying to send without reading into the context of the message, especially when the behavior is vastly different than normal. Second, if you have a dog enforce rules and I mean making rules that are social for humans AND canines. For many reasons, it is NOT okay for a dog to try to hump another dog and can often result in a fight with real injuries to the dogs or the people who will try to jump in. Calm/balanced dogs will never exhibit that behavior because the most dominant one in control is the pack leader. Humans will do the figurative humping with subordinates just to show how’s in charge and we all know that is about as unbalanced as they come. Clearly, when Koa returned to the in-law’s house, he was happy just to lay in the thick grass away from all of the chaos.
So, until next time, read the message (not the behavior) and enforce the rules!