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The importance of context.

A dog’s behaviour isn’t always black and white. There are lots of rules, traits and tics to behaviour and body language, but nothing is ever certain or set in stone. It’s absolutely crucial to look at each case individually and consider the context of the behaviour before making a proper assessment.

For example, when it comes to body language, we need to look at the dog’s WHOLE body and observe them in different settings and scenarios. A dog with a wagging tail might typically seem happy, but if that wag is accompanied by a stiff torso, staring eyes or a a growl, it could mean something very different. Even the TYPE of tail wag is important - low and slow has a totally different meaning to high and fast. Likewise, some dogs have their own unique ways of using body language - my boy flattens his ears and wags his tail when he sees a friend, but for another dog, flat ears might mean fearfulness.

Behaviours also need to be set in their unique context. A dog that barks and lunges might seem ‘aggressive’ or ‘dangerous’ before we look at their environment and the way they’re being handled. Simple changes can make the world of difference.

I once worked with someone who believed their dogs were destined to be enemies - they would fight and squabble all day long. Aside from keeping them permanently segregated, their mum didn’t know what to do. I was able to observe their interactions in situ, and immediately noticed their mismatched play styles and energy levels. We were then able to change the way play was managed, add in some decompression time and personal space, and voila! No more fights.

Context is key. If you need someone with fresh eyes to help you see the bigger picture, let me know 🐾

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