Those who have been following along know that I’ve been plagued by one thought: There is often a disconnect between what many people think their dogs are doing and saying and what is actually happening. And it’s killing me.
I’ve had a front-row seat to the world of fearful dogs since adopting Emma the Beagle in 2014. I’ve watched her freeze in terror from having to do something as simple as taking one step onto a hardwood floor: her tail tucks, she makes herself as small as possible, her brow furrows, her eyes widen, and her pupils dilate. Nothing moves. Her blood pressure rises, but the rest of her turns to stone. Despite how far Emma has come in overcoming fears, at least once a day something will inevitably scare her, causing her to do everything I’ve just described.
So I know fear. I wish I didn’t know it so well, but I do. And so it kills me when I see “hilarious” videos posted on Facebook where a dog is clearly terrified, but people think he’s just being funny — like the German Shepherd who ran around screaming and then jumped through the plate-glass window because he was left alone (separation anxiety; not Three Stooges) or the Boxer sitting like a statue in his kennel at a shelter with nothing moving but his eyes slowly following people come and go (response to a threat; not Mr. Bean).
Being me, I had to do something about it. So I started brainstorming with some friends and colleagues and realized that there was something we could do to help: We could build a website and campaign to teach people how to better understand dogs’ body language and behavior. Thus, iSpeakDog was born.
On March 27, 2017, we will be launching ispeakdog.org which will not only teach what dogs do and why, but, more importantly perhaps, it will also teach people how to figure out for themselves what their dogs are doing and why.
We’ll break down behaviors dogs do that tend to frustrate their guardians (i.e. jumping up on people, chewing shoes, and pulling on leash) and show the different emotional states that can drive behavior (i.e. growling and snapping is often a sign that the dog is scared).
March is a long time away, and we want to start sharing information now. To that end, beginning tomorrow, we will feature one behavior a week on our Facebook page — with information on why dogs do it and what you can do about it, so that dogz and peoplez can live harmoniously together.
I have to thank four incredible organizations for jumping on board when iSpeakDog was merely a glimmer of an idea and agreeing to help me to turn it into a reality: The Academy for Dog Trainers, the Humane Rescue Alliance, the Bark Magazine, and the Pet Professional Guild. This would not be possible without you.
If you haven’t already done so, please “like” our Facebook page and help spread the word. We’re on a mission to help the dogz. I hope you’ll join us.