Communicating visually with his dog
Visual communication mainly indicates the dog's intentions, positive or negative compared to the master or the person met. It is therefore important to know the signals expressing the dominance and the submission in the dog, as well as the gestures and attitudes by which the man can affirm his dominance compared to a dog, in particular to prevent the appearance of the aggressiveness of dominance
Signals expressing the dominance of a dog relative to another dog:
- oriented look, fixing the dominated
- erect ears, directed towards the dominated
- upper lip rolled up
- externalised teeth
- raised head
- tail extended horizontally or upright
- rigid, stretched whole body expressing a "high profile"
- pilo-erection in the back and of the withers
- dominant overhanging to the dominated
- head placed above the neck of the dominated
- anterior placed on the stroke, the withers or the back of the dominated
- attempt to ascend or mating
- dominated grasped by muzzle or by neck
- dominated pushed, jostling
- growling, roaring
Signs expressing the submission of a dog to another dog:
- look fleeing, diverted, avoiding that of the dominant
- ears lying backwards, against the nape of the neck
- the mouth of the lips pulled backwards
- the head raised
- the tail extended
- the whole body curled up reflecting a low profile
- Recumbent position
Communication visual is ensured by a complete repertoire of postures expressing both the emotions and intentions of the animal. The basic unit of this mode of communication is the signal that indicates either the emotional state or the intention of the dog. The syntax of this mode of communication is ensured by the organization and sequence of these postures. An example of a known posture is the posture of play where the dog is lowered only on its anterior ones, the hindquarters remaining straight and the tail moving according to the level of excitation of the dog.
One understands in this example that the posture consists of a set of signals that express the intention of the dog. We will therefore list the visual characteristics of postures.
Visual postures consist of two categories of signals: emotional signals and voluntary signals. Emotional signals are uncontrolled productions. They reflect the emotional state of the individual. Visual communication is information about the intention of the dog relative to the other. Lorenz shows the change that emotional signals cause to a facial expression depending on the type and intensity of the emotion felt by the animal.
Voluntary signals are voluntary motor productions. They allow the animal to express its intentions during interactions with its congeners. The learning of these signals and their function is done during the socialization of the young person.
The look has a very strong meaning. Maintaining the eye in the eyes of the opponent is characteristic of the dog who seeks to express his superiority or who seeks to come into conflict. As a result, gaze avoidance is one of the most important signs of submission.
In a pack, all the eyes of the subordinates are focused on the leader but their eyes are turned away as soon as the dominant fixes them in the eyes. The dominant is seen in a group simply by observing the orientation of the gaze of all individuals in a pack.
Functional Classification of Signals:
- those which bring the other closer together
- those who distance the other
Signs that decrease the distance are used when the individual wishes to approach his interlocutor with a peaceful intention. We find in this category all the signals that tend to reduce the body volume as well as all the signals that hide the marks of threat of the animal.
These signals are for example: the avoidance of the gaze, the "grimace of submission, the folding of the ears, the movements of the tail, the lowering of the tail and the settling of the body on itself, the slapping of the tongue or the licking of its upper lip, the raising of a paw in sign of solicitation and rolling on the back. These signals will therefore be used in the postures of submission and appeasement.
Signals that increase the distance serve to minimize or interrupt contacts and interactions. This category includes all the signals that tend to increase the body volume and that express a bellicose intent.
There is the fixed gaze, the roll-up of the chops which allows to discover the canines, the ears which stand up or which on the contrary completely flatten out and any changes that result in an impression of increased body volume such as head-up, pilo-erection, stiffening and contraction of muscles.
This category also includes urinary marking and scraping of the ground, the tail held straight and vertical or turned on the back, and the movement of the end of the tail in the high position
The ambivalent signals are a mixture of the signals described previously. It can be a simultaneous combination of voluntary signals and conflicting emotional signals or very fast back and forth between signals that increase the distance and signals that decrease the distance. The association of these signals form an incomprehensible posture, illegible for the animal in front.
Example of hierarchical postures
Fox's description of the approach of a young wolf towards a dominant adult clearly shows the different poses related to the hierarchical position and the interactions that result from it.
"The young wolf looks to the superior and suddenly looks away in an exaggerated way, avoiding the contact of the gaze As the superior comes closer, the young wolf lowers and wags his tail, simultaneously lowers his hindquarters, his head and ears, and lifts his lips back horizontally in a "grimace of submission."
He can then lift a previous, turn his head to one side and wind his hindquarters a large part of which falls to the ground to achieve a C-shaped posture (or an inverted T). He may moan, pull out his tongue repeatedly (intent to lick or lick in the void) and occasionally make pushing movements with his snout (such as for searching or intentional snapping movements).
When the dominant wolf reaches a certain distance, the young wolf can crawl along almost to his belly, continuing to move his tail, he lifts his forehead, moans and licks and snaps at one side of the mouth of the superior
Otherwise, he can roll on one side with the tail pressed between his legs, his eyes directed away from his superior, the lips pulled back in the form of a grimace and at the last stage lift his posterior to expose his genitals, he can then emit a little urine. Sometimes licking and snapping can be observed, but usually the young wolf stays motionless, lying on its side."
The postures of adult dogs are found in puppy behaviors
We find the origin of the postures of submission in puppy behaviors in front of an adult.
The posture of active submission where the body is picked up, the head lowered and turned with a look away and a tail and ears low with a possible licking of the chops of the dominant, has many elements derived from the solicitation of food by the little ones to the parents.
In the same point of view, the posture of passive submission where the dog is on the back presenting his genitals recalls the inguinal contact and the ano-genital cleaning done by the parents on their young.
Postures sometimes misunderstood by the man
However, there may be confusion and postures that are not well understood by the man. For example the ears folded backwards are found in the dog who submits but also on an animal ready to attack.
In the same way, there are signals of submission that the man often misunderstands. For example, the acceptance of hierarchical overlap or licking are attitudes of acceptance of the superiority of the animal.
On the other hand, the dog may also not understand the postures of the man towards him. . For example, maintaining the gaze of an unknown man in the eyes while the dog is in a submissive posture can lead to a fearful bite because the dog does not understand this look which is for him the maintenance of the threat.
The same body element can have several functions and be used in very different functions; for example, the tail serves as an indicator of the level of submission of the animal when in the low position but it is also an indicator of the level of excitation of the dog. This level of excitement is also often expressed by barking. However, vocalizations are also used to communicate.