Body Language

“If Only You Had A Crystal Ball”

Relieving Body Language

One question new raisers might have is, “How in the world can you tell your pup needs to go potty so you can rush the pup outside before an accident happens?” Believe it or not, pups, like human infants, have various ways of making their needs known, but you have to be at the right spot at the right time because pups’ signals are usually really quick and are often missed before the pup has an accident.

The next time you take your puppy out to do its business, when you are at home, watch the position of the tail. When a pup has to go, its tail straightens almost flat out and moves stiffly from side to side as the pup walks. Okay, so the pup goes pee. “How can I tell if he needs to do #2?” Again, watch that tail, and watch the behavior of the pup. If he continues to want to sniff and that tail is still straight out and the pup is still walking stiffly, that usually means he has to do more. If not, the tail will relax and the pup will walk in a more normal manner or may just stand there looking at you as if saying “Well, I’m done, let’s get going.” Another signal is some pups will start to walk with you, but will stop dead in their tracks. After five pups, I’ve found that this often means, “Oops, I’m not done, let’s go back.” Nine times out of ten, that pup will have to either pee some more or will need to poop.

* * * * * * * *

“To Pee, or Not to Pee...”

Sniffing Body Language

Sniffing is another body language. Notice how your puppy sniffs when he’s intent on finding a place to do his business. You’ll notice that his nose skims the ground which is what you want him to do. What happens if he finds a real interesting smell and stops skimming? Just give him a slight leash correction (more of a tug) to move him from the spot that’s all of a sudden more interesting than doing his business. If the pup tries to go back to that spot, give him a stronger leash correction (pop). Then he should go back to skimming the ground until he finds a spot he likes. If pups have to do their business, they generally do not sniff a spot intently, they sweep or skim the ground with their noses and squat. The stopping to sniff syndrome means they’ve found something a lot more interesting than doing their business. Most importantly, remember do not say “Do your business,” until the pup actually starts to relieve, otherwise, he may think “Do your business” is permission to sniff all he wants, whether or not he has to relieve.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Mom...I gotta go...NOW!”

Body Language and Outings

Baby puppies are fast squatters, and it is hard to tell when they are going to have an accident. Thus the reason for short trips out and about until they are house trained (about the age of 4 to 5 months).

When your pup is older, there is a different body language when he is out “in public.” He may slow his pace, and/or start walking stiffly with that tail almost straight. When you walk by an exit, he/she may pull slightly towards the door. Another behavior one of our dogs did, was to start acting up. And alas, there’s that positive, “I mean business” starting to squat position. If he starts to squat, and if you are still able to pick your pup up, you should do so, tucking its tail between the legs, and head for the nearest exit. If you find yourself at a point where the pup has an accident, don’t be embarrassed by it. We have found people to be sympathetic because they realize you are training the pup, and accidents do happen. Just make sure you carry lots of paper towels, diapers, and baggies with you. You may want to carry a small spray bottle of room deodorizer, for those “nose bending” occasions. And also perhaps a small spray bottle of 409 or other cleaner to spray on the floor just before giving it a final swipe with the paper towel. One more little spray bottle that sometimes comes in handy is one filled with a liquid carpet spot cleaner for those accidents (heaven forbid) on carpet.

When puppies are older, they have a set schedule of when they poop. So try to plan your trips after the pup has pooped. As the puppy ages, it should be able to go longer between relieving incidents. However, if your pup poops during walks or on outings, please notify a leader immediately. We don’t want bad habits to develop, and we have techniques to help prevent that from happening.


“Friend or Foe”

Body Language and Other Dogs

This is probably one of the most important body language abilities a puppy raiser must be aware of body language exhibited by any dog(s) approaching you and your pup while you are outside, whether that dog is on or off leash. In a few seconds’ time, you have to determine if the approaching dog is a danger to you or your pup. Watch for a stiffer walking gait, watch for the tail to go up stiffly and maybe slightly wag...not all wagging tails are friendly. You have to be aware of your pup’s body language as well. Is he excited by the approaching dog, does he look like he might be aggressive or submissive? If you allow the dogs to greet one another, make sure the other one does not get an opportunity to try to show dominance by putting its head over the shoulders of your pup or vice versa.

If the approaching dog(s) is off leash and looks aggressive, you can pick your pup up, if he/she is still light enough--but do not put yourself in danger by stepping between your puppy and an aggressive dog looking for a fight. It may be necessary for you to drop the leash to avoid injury, and it also gives your pup more freedom to protect itself. If by yourself, you can try to scare the dog(s) off by stomping the ground with your feet, waving your arms and clapping your hands, and shouting in a loud voice. If other people are around, ask them for help in trying to scare the other dog(s)away. If scaring the aggressive dog is unsuccessful, there is nothing you can do. That will probably be the most difficult decision you will ever make, but your safety is more important. Most dog fights do not result in serious injury to the combatants.

If the dog is aggressive looking and is on leash with a “human” attached to the other end, you might have to (1) divert your direction to swing wide of the dog; (2) call out to the other person that now is not a good time for the dogs to socialize because you’re trying to teach your dog to ignore passing dogs and say it with a smile. This usually indirectly tells people to please control their dog, but more importantly lets them know you are trying to keep your dog under control as well. Usually, most people are very understanding, or they know how their dog will react and will keep a tight leash on their pooch. But occasionally, you’ll come across someone who thinks it’s their duty to make sure their dog gets a chance to say “Hi” to every dog on the path, regardless if you ask them not to. These dogs are usually lunging at their leashes and friendly as heck, but be on guard for that occasional bully. This also goes for people who just have to get their “puppy fix” by petting and hugging yours. Unfortunately, if your pup is petted every time someone stops you, he will begin to anticipate and may even be hard to control when someone walks up to you, whether they want to pet your dog or just talk to you. There are a couple of ways to help prevent this behavior. (1)You can ask approaching people not to pet your pup as soon as they walk up to you, but to wait a few minutes while you chat. When your dog is calmly standing or sitting, then you can allow the people to pet, “behind the ears please”. This teaches your pup that he will not get immediate attention when people come up to you. (2) Don’t feel you have to let everyone who comes up to you pet your pup. You can ask them politely (with a smile) to please not pet because you are teaching your pup to ignore passersby, or that the pup gets too excited, and you’re trying to break that habit. (3) You can just say your pup is “working” and can’t be petted.

It is okay for people to pet your pup, but the main emphasis is that you are in control of the situation, not your pup.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Your Actions May Affect the Treatment of Blind People”

Raiser’s Body Language

How you behave towards the “general public” is extremely important. Remember, you are not only representatives for our club, but for the entire Guide Dogs of the Blind organization. Your behavior towards other people and/or store owners could influence how blind people with Working Guides could be treated — negatively or positively — depending upon how you conduct yourself when responding to problems with your pup, or problems with another person. In California, by law, only working service dogs are allowed into stores. Puppies in training are not considered to be working dogs. So a business can refuse to let you into their store. If this happens, politely ask to speak to the store manager. Usually it’s younger and inexperienced employees who refuse us entry, and the store managers are more aware of the Guide Dog program. If, however, the store manager still does not let you in, you can ask them if they would like to receive information from Guide Dogs about the program, and ask for a business card which you can give to a leader. Be sure to thank them (smile on face please), and quietly leave. It’s better to leave a bad situation alone than to create a scene over the ability to go into a place of business with your pup. There are few restaurants who refuse us entry. Most businesses in California are aware of our program and welcome us. And, as always, handle a situation with a positive attitude and a smile.

* * * * * * * * * *


New Puppy Raisers: Puppies should be relieved on leash at all times. Do not turn the pups loose outside while you stay inside. We realize it’s cold outside and often it’s rainy, but our pups need the consistency of relieving on leash. This also ensures that they do in fact go potty, because sometimes pups will pee a little and then come back in and then finish up in the house, or maybe they needed a few more minutes to decide whether they need to go poop, too, especially if it’s cold outside or raining (they usually hate to get their feet wet). So dress warmly and be patient with them during this learning process. If you have problems getting your puppy to pee and/or poop while it’s windy and/or rainy, please contact a leader…we have tricks to help out.

Also be sure to say “do your business,” after your pup starts to relieve and repeat that phrase “do your business” during the entire time he is relieving, until he is done. Then praise like crazy when he’s finished. I noticed my pup, Pria, was much more responsive to body rubs. I’d gently pull her to me and gently rub her sides while saying, “Good girl” in a happy voice several times. However, there are some dogs that go absolutely crazy with “high happy voices,”…they may require soft praise with petting or rubbing.

Make sure when you take your pup out that you don’t wander around the yard with her. You must stand in one place, extending the leash to its full length and let the pup walk around you. Her little nose should be “sweeping” the ground for the right spot... if she gets stuck sniffing intently in one spot (meaning she digs her nose into the grass and won’t move), with a gentle tug on the leash move her away from that interesting spot, then she will go back to “sweeping” the ground before relieving.