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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2012, 01:18 PM Thread Starter
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Eye Contact

Everyone I ever heard when I was little said not to look a dog in the eye, because that is saying you want to fight. Now every training method that I've seen, from Aversive to Positive Reinforcement is saying that eye contact is a good thing.
Is that just a myth? Or is it just because you're the owner, and the dog should know the difference?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2012, 01:23 PM
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You would not stare at a strange/threatening dog.
But yes it's fine to make eye contact with a non-threatening dog, even if not your own. Bending forwards at the waist and leaning "into" the dog is not a good way to greet a dog new to you, but pay attention to the dog's body language as well. Some don't mind it. Others back up, if a dog backs up warily, it's better to turn sideways, or crouch down.

When working A/C with aggressive dogs, if you want them to not feel threatened you look at them sideways (turn body to side and take glances). If you visit shelters, it's always a good idea to view the dogs from a sideways point of view rather than bend down towards them facing forwards. If they are fine with that, you can crouch down and make contact that way.

If you need them to have a respect for you, or even run away, it's okay to look and make yourself seem "bigger" by lifting your arms, etc.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2012, 01:25 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, thanks!
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2012, 01:32 PM
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What msvette said. I spend a lot of time encouraging and reinforcing eye contact from my dogs from the time they're puppies, that's something I'd definitely recommend you start doing if you haven't already.

But even if s/he seeks eye contact with you, that doesn't necessarily mean your dog will seek it out and enjoy it from strangers, and I would never assume that a strange dog would be okay with me doing it to them.

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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2012, 01:33 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, that's good to know.

I don't have a dog yet, (I'm crossing my fingers, though) but I want to learn everything I can before I get one.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2012, 01:40 PM
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2012, 01:49 PM Thread Starter
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Those are cool posters! Where did you find them?
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2012, 02:08 PM
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There is a difference between staring a dog down and teaching focus and eye contact. It's not natural for a dog to look you in the eye. As a puppy, reward whenever your dog looks at you so they know that looking at you means good things happen. Even as an adult, you can teach that. Teaching focus is what the training methods are referring too.

Now...staring a dog down...Jax will readily make eye contact with me or anyone in my family, my trainer, my friends that she knows well, especially if it means a toy is going to be thrown. If a stranger were to stare her in the eyes, they have a barking, lunging, monster on their hands. That is her trigger. I had a woman do that to her on purpose when she was 6-8 months old and it sent her right over the edge. The woman told me she did it on purpose to see what would happen because she had been bitten the week before. At that point, she almost got punched in the face.

Staring a dog down is a challenge. That is not a myth. Bending over a dog is a dominant position. If you want to learn about dog body language buy the book "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell. It's a great book.
Here is her blog...you can buy the book most anywhere
Human Bond With Dogs, Behavior of Dogs and People, Dog Psychology | Patricia McConnell Blog




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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2012, 02:08 PM
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I don't remember. I think someone posted them on Facebook or something.

When you go through life - dog-oriented, so to speak - you'll find out that probably 80-90% of people out there simply ignore dog body language. They carry on as if the dog is a piece of fur and bones, nothing more.
Meanwhile dogs are trying desperately to communicate with us, and if we ignore them, they can and do "escalate" into a bite or nip.

You'll learn that most if not all dog bites can be prevented by people learning to read dog body language.

For instance, a child is bitten. When you ask the parent what was going on, either they were in another room, or they were there, and they say "The child was trying to hug/kiss the dog".
Well, sure, we all hope our dogs wouldn't bite in response to "affection" from a child, but then again, when you view the "how to greet a dog", you'll see not all dogs enjoy hugs, etc., from us humans. Why? Because dogs don't hug each other!
When they do wrap a paw around another, it's an act of dominance and may precipitate a fight! You learn that by watching them play and interact from puppyhood on.
Dog parks are good places to observe dog body language, even if you don't bring your own dog there. You can see what body language leads up to a fight.

Anyway back to the child - when a child hugs or kisses a dog not familiar to them, it's very likely to lead to an injury because dogs just don't appreciate that familiar of behavior, and also, again, in dog language, it means something totally different.

If an alien landed on our planet, would you go up to said alien and hug it around the neck to say hello? Or would you bother to try to learn it's language so it knew you were not a threat?
As humans we tend to assume dogs "speak our language" and they "know we are nice" or "not a threat", this is another assumption that gets people bitten. With kids, humans use the logic "Well, it's a child and obviously not a threat so why would the dog see it that way?"
But dogs are not people and we need to know their body language, and methods of communicating with each other, to be good owners.
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