Clear communication becomes dog’s play

Grace enjoyed some moments with our friends’ dog, Raegan, when we all went on a walk this weekend.

It’s really fun to watch two animals play together. They seem to have a rhythm, knowing what to do and when to do it. If one does something the other doesn’t like, it’s communicated clearly, in a way that expresses their desire, without judgment. No grudges held or lingering resentment, no baggage left to deal with on a subsequent encounter.

The two had lots of energy chasing each other.

On Sunday, we had the opportunity to take Raegan, our friends’ dog, on our weekend walk. Grace normally runs a lot on our walks, up and back, up and back again, and all around us on the trail. But with another dog around, there is even more energy abounding. It is interesting to watch.

Raegan is a one-year-old silver lab. She’s sweet, strong, and like most labs, she loves the water. I was nervous when we neared a small reservoir and she ventured out on the ice. We called her back. She came. Whew, thank you, Raegan. Can’t tell you how much I did not want to find out how cold that water was.

They raced side by side down the trail and even though Raegan is larger and younger, Grace was sure to show us all that she was still in the game.

I know that all dogs don’t get along. But I do think they have a way of communicating that is very clear, especially when humans aren’t around to misinterpret. Their messages may be subtle, but they are effective. Animals are more inclined to watch for nuances and signals that we humans have to be hit over the head before we see it or hear it.

My last post was about being ignored. And as was noted in the comments from that post, matters get worse when we don’t address them. Grace and Raegan weren’t always side by side, but they never ignored each other either. It seemed they always knew what the other one was doing. They had a blast being together on their walk. But it didn’t mean they always agreed on how to play or what to do next.

Raegan found her puddles to wade through. Grace jumped over the tree limbs, just like we’ve done in agility. Sometimes they ran together in circles, one instigating the other to run faster or further. And sometimes Grace said, “Enough!!” with her front paws and low growl. Raegan understood and abided.

When I looked back on the pictures from the day, it seemed they were more in sync than I initially thought they were.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone on the team understood their own personal style and needs, along with the needs of others — and then were able to communicate those things clearly and with respect for all?

Watching two dogs play can teach us a lot.

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8 comments

  1. LeeAnn says:

    Robin – your post captured the simplicity and beauty of the two dogs’ communications. We so often lose that as humans and add all sorts of “stuff” into our conversations – expectations, insecurities, past history, etc. It all becomes so jumbled at times. I also love how dogs (and other animals) seem to pay much more attention to “energy” in their communications – whether it be the energy of another animal or a human. My Gracie reacts so to my energy – especially when I am nervous or sad. Excellent post and fun pictures!

    • LeeAnn, what a great point. Animals do rely on energetic signs so much more than we do and aren’t they wise to do so? Our body language and other non-verbal signs are so accurate; it’s odd how humans aren’t as attuned to them. Thanks for making that point!

  2. didiwright says:

    Great post and very accurate observations and comments about dog communication, Robin. In fact, I don’t think there is much I can add this time πŸ™‚ Apart from the fact that I, too, love to watch George playing with his friends. Although they’re all different sizes and shapes, they all speak sign language perfectly and the communication between them always seems to run smoothly… Smoother than some of the human conversations I’ve had over the years.
    I love that last photo of Grace and Raegan’s tails wagging at unison…I’d call that a lucky shot, perfect to demonstrate your theory πŸ˜‰

    • Lucky shot indeed. I was actually trying to get their entire bodies in the picture but they moved too fast for me to react, and I thought what I captured was cute. What amazed me as I looked back on the pictures, was how much aligned they were during the day. My memory of the walk was that they were hardly ever side by side, but that wasn’t the case at all. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Great post, Robin! It reminds me of a title to a great book about dogs called “Dogs Don’t Bite When a Growl Will Do”. They just know how to communicate with one another and the rules are quite simple. I love how you mentioned that their communication is very clear, especially when humans aren’t around to misinterpret. The more I learn about dogs, the more aware I become of how misunderstood they are by people. We project too much of our own “stuff” on them – unfortunately, this is often done by well-meaning people who want to help dogs. But they are not humans and should not be treated like humans – they are at their best when they are allowed to just be dogs. Kind of like we are at our best when we can really truly just be ourselves.

    • Great feedback. I like the point about the rules are quite simple. Yet very effective! Couldn’t we all learn from that. And yes, another excellent point that we are at our best when we can truly be ourselves. Well said, Laurie, as always. Thanks for adding to this, it is very helpful.

  4. spiderpaw says:

    I agree with you Robin. We can learn so much about dealing with each other from watching dogs play. The biggest one for me me is “Check your ego at the door”. By the way, I can’t get enough of watching little Grace have some fun with her friend.

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