Reading dogs; most people haven't a clue what dogs are saying unless they have taken an interest or are in the business of reading dogs like trainers. Of course not all trainers can read dogs. I remember taking Tilley to test for her CGC over fourteen years ago. She was at the time a timid little thing and when we were asked to approach the guy sitting on the chair she pulled away. The "trainer" who was suppose to have had many years experience under his belt turned to me and said "what's wrong with her?" Really, really? Are you kidding me? I left at that moment shaking my head.
This person who was suppose to be dog savvy didn't understand or couldn't read her apprehension about approaching the guy? I really could not understand it. There are many people who deal with dogs on a regular basis that don't "get dogs." To get dogs you must want to get dogs, take an interest. Often our own dogs don't get dogs and there can be many reasons why. Some dogs are just plain obnoxious; oh they understand when a dog is getting mad or doesn't want to play, they just ignore the signs.
Many dogs have poor dog reading skills because they were never given the opportunity to hang out with other dogs. If they lead a sheltered life away from strange dogs out in the world then they can have a severe handicap. Dogs must be with other dogs in their early weeks and months so that they can learn how to communicate. Elsa is an amazing communicator, she had the chance to interact with other dogs at her breeders home. Once she came to our house she was given the opportunity to interact with very old dogs, one who had dementia, the other vestibular disease and Luke. I took her to puppy classes so that she could play with other puppies and dogs. There she played with everything from tiny micro puppies all the way up to a full grown and very mature Great Dane.
We have been seeking other dogs from the get go. Dogs must learn to read so that they do not get themselves into trouble. Running into a dangerous situation can be avoided if you know what you are seeing. If you have a dog who is not gifted in reading dog language then you need to tune up your own skills so that you can teach them. When Luke was young he was the type to charge in and see what happened. This got him into a heap of trouble often. He was also the target of a great deal of aggression simply from his posture. He was never aggressive, he is a very confident dog and carries himself accordingly. Many other dominant type dogs don't like this and see it as a direct threat.
Watching is the only way to perfect your skills. We approached a couple of puppies this week at the park, Elsa reads them like a master teacher. She knew that the first puppy, a young boxer was a great playmate. They spent a good amount of time boxing each other happily. The next puppy we met was a recent rescue, insecure, curious but teetering on the edge of snapping. She kept her distance and watched. I saw the same behavior and ended our visit short.
If dogs do not get the chance to interact with all sorts of dogs they just never perfect their reading skills or their own communication skills. Even still some will never be good at either, that's where we come in. Dog communications are truly amazing, they throw each other the tiniest signals that you will most definitely miss if you are not looking for them. I could literally watch it forever, it is fascinating how they can say so much without ever uttering a single sound.