Are You Listening?
Recently we were at an outdoor music festival where there were many humans who brought their dogs. Of course, as people who study dogs for a living, we were observant of the canine companions in this setting. I am not sure if this was different pre-pandemic, but most of the dogs we saw were clearly uncomfortable in this environment. Some dogs were uncomfortable and expressed it by barking and lunging. Others had their tails tucked, head low, ears back and down and had hard eyes. There was one couple who had one of each of these types of dogs. From the human perspective, I think they knew that the dog that was barking and lunging was not comfortable but they may not have noticed that the other dog wasn’t comfortable either. At one point a bunch of kids went over and I think (I hope!) asked to pet the dogs. They let the kids pet the dog that was cowering and not the dog that was barking and lunging. Either of these dogs could have nipped or bit the kids. They were both clearly uncomfortable but expressed it in two different ways. I felt really sad for both of the dogs. This was not a place any dog should be as the music was too loud, even for me. I have to wonder if the loud music was actually painful to the dogs? Dogs experience sounds differently than humans do.
On a happy note, we did see one dog, away from the music, who was clearly enjoying being out and about. This dog’s body language was soft and relaxed and he was enjoying the attention of those around him.
The point of telling you about this experience is for you to carefully consider what environments you should bring your dog to. Should you bring Fido to a friend's house, a brewery, or a festival? Or, is it best for you to leave him home? We may want to bring our dogs everywhere, but there are some places that are too stressful for some dogs, especially ones who already have some fear or anxiety issues. Can you read your dog well enough to tell if your dog is uncomfortable? Our dogs are always telling us, the question is are we listening and understanding what they are saying?