Speak Toto language!
A few years ago, a child was killed by dogs in Romania. Media presented this subject but solutions were searched only during the time this subject was hot. We, at ROLDA, consider that animals and people can live in harmony, but rules must be respected, on both sides. Romania, and especially the rural part of the country, lacks education and this affect both animals and people.
With some guidance, children can learn to understand dogs body language and avoid, as much as possible, interacting with aggressive dogs. At the same time, they can learn when a dog is playful and shows friendly behavior, which doesn’t require extra precaution. Starting from these ideas, observing the community needs and problems, ROLDA decided to start a different education program: Speak (dog) Toto language!
Dogs’ different “moods” are presented on a leaflet, which will be distributed especially in the villages surrounding Galati (and hopefully, if the program proved to be successful, in other parts of the country, too).
Communication is the way in which humans and other species understand each other. If people have the advantage of verbal, articulated communication, dogs and other animals have ancient ways to “talk” to each other. They use certain body positions and sounds to communicate their emotions and desires, both to their own kind and to humans. By barking in a certain way your dog can “tell” you how excited or scared he is to do something or when put in a new situation.
On the other hand, by adopting a certain posture he could convey the desire to be left alone or a clear wish for some playtime. Dogs are clever animals. They can learn up to 200 human words, and actually, understand their meaning. If they can adapt to our language then what’s our excuse? Why can’t we learn some Toto language basics? A few basic notions regarding stances and specific sounds it’s all we need to get along!
A fearful dog has its head in a downwards position, with its dog “hiding”, tucked away between its hind legs. The dog’s overall position lets out a submissive aura, and it can come along with bouts of powerful shaking. Besides the specific posture, a scared dog will also whine or whimper to show its distress.
A curious dog is an energetic one. Its head could move from side to side, following an unknown object. Its ears are raised, ready to pick up a strange noise or perhaps the voice of its owner. Curious dogs are also very keen to smelling everything, or even “trying them out” by putting their paws and scratching away at new things (or people).
A dog that wants to show an aggressive mood takes on a very firm, dominant stance. The head and the tail are up, with the hair from those regions being very spiky. Its eyes are wide open and its upper lip is raised to showcase the sharp teeth underneath- a telltale sign that the animal is feeling cornered and that’s he is ready to defend itself. This stance usually is accompanied by a low-guttural growling, which is a warning as well as a declaration of authority. When it comes to territorial issues, dogs take their “owner rights” seriously. They even go as far as to get up on their hind legs, in order to dominate their adversaries with their superior height.
Dogs are clever animals, and they do have a “sixth sense” for understanding when they did something “wrong”. Presented with solid proof of their guilt (an empty dinner plate, a ruined shoe, a shredded pillow), the dog becomes the definition of “being caught red-handed” – a lowered head, puppy eyes, and a weak apathetic looking tail wag meant to melt hearts. For a maximized dramatic effect those emotional blackmailers know how to choose the perfect place to fit with their “victim” persona: in a corner, with their back to a wall or with their heads hidden in a pile of the pillow as to escape accusing eyes.
A dog that adopts a defensive stance could resort to violence as a last resort if it feels endangered. The main differences between a defensive and an aggressive stance are the lack of that dominant aura and the position of the tail- which in this situation is tucked between the dog’s back legs, showing the animal’s fear. A cornered dog can growl but not in that deep way that characterizes an aggressive mood. It’s more of a warning bark, that can turn into wines very easily. Also, in defensive situations, they rarely show their teeth. The best way to deal with a dog that feels endangered by your presence is to give it enough space to escape. The dog doesn’t want to fight you as much as you don’t want to be attacked by it. He just wants to be left alone.
Happy dogs are usually on the loud side of things and they are quite easily spotted. They bark a lot, happy loud barks interrupted by chaotic breathing caused by all the excitement, and they jump around to get your attention. Dogs can get excited for most any reason. Treats, a new toy, a possible walk or their owner coming back home from work – any of those can trigger the canine excitement. Hearing the voice of their owner or smelling him can also send the dog into a sincere bout of happiness.
A calm pet is more often than not a drowsy one. They lay down in comfortable positions: curled up in a ball, laid on their bellies or on their backs with their paws in the air. Frequently they fall into deep states of sleep, accompanied by loud snoring and “twitches” of the limbs or the whole body. Dogs are capable of having dreams, just like humans, but their imagination is limited to running sequences and memories from their puppy days.
A playful dog frantically waggles his tail, so hard that it’s all hind regions move along with it. They bark to get your attention and they adopt that “throw a toy my way” stance – with stretched front legs, lowered upper body and raised hind region, with that propeller of a tail still going strong.
Shy dogs will try as hard as they can to avoid eye contact. They try to find a spot that gives them a sense of comfort and safety, and they sometimes whine to show their distress. Those dogs must be approached in a sensible way as to not worsen their state of discomfort. Slow and gentle does the trick and it’s even better if you use a soothing voice.
UNCERTAIN / UNSURE / MISTRUSTED
Animals that have been recently picked up from the streets or from a bad environment usually show signs of mistrust towards humans. They can do a complete 180 shift in a matter of minutes – from being happy to see you and accepting your affection to putting some distance between you two, as a precaution. Those dogs are so polarizing because most of them have suffered from some form of abuse in their lives, at the hands of some horrible people. It’s only natural that they feel wary around other people, after having experienced the worst our kind can offer. However, dogs have a natural tendency towards being friendly and social animals so they can learn to trust humans again if you treat them with love and kindness.