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Why do dogs lift one of their front paws when they are thinking and watching? Is it a show of alertness or high interest in something they have spotted?
Canine body language is complex and subtle. It is usually driven by instinct and our interpretation of their language requires us not only to understand the language but interpret it within context. Dogs lift their paws for a number of reasons which can mean submission, anxiety and an invitation to play. But when a dog lifts its paw when it is watching something – perhaps it has spied a squirrel on the lawn – it will inevitably be an instinctive behaviour that is driven by the hunting sequence.
To survive, canines went through what is known as a hunting sequence. This included scenting, tracking, stalking, chasing and finally, if successful, catching and eating.
Lifting a paw (along with extending the neck, lowering the body and stretching out the tail) when scenting or seeing prey is an instinctive part of this hunting sequence which can be seen particularly in the gundog and hound breeds. The elegant Pointer epitomises an adaptation of this natural behaviour, effectively pointing towards the quarry and allowing the guns to prepare before flushing the game into the air.
This anticipatory gesture remains in many of our pet dogs today.
Why has my dog's behaviour changed during lockdown? We thought he would be happy for us to all be at home! Lockdown has been an odd time for everyone and, to complicate matters, there
was no blueprint for how to cope. I noticed through social media that many dogs were cock-a-hoop that their humans were at home all day and that daily walks were often longer and more frequent as individual family members took the dog with them on their allotted exercise.
But whilst some dogs have thrived and relished this time, other dogs have not coped well. To some extent this has depended on how the humans have coped. Dogs (and other animals) are affected way more by how we are than what we do. They pick up our energy and emotions in a way that we can only imagine. With many humans caged in a house for long periods of time, there has been frustration, anger, boredom, and – perhaps – sadness or depression. The dogs soak all of this up and, depending on the dog, may become unsettled and
unbalanced. It is possible, too, that some dogs will have borne the brunt of frustrations and anger.
To survive the extended periods at home, canny dog owners try to keep some sort of routine for themselves and their dog. They ensure their dog has somewhere quiet to rest well away from the squabbles, human chaos and noisy children. They find ways to stay calm and grounded for their own health as well as for the benefit of the dog. Finally, they offer their dog brain training as well as reasonable physical exercise.
My grandma has just bought a Papillon to keep her company. I think it needs more than a ten minute walk round the block each day, but am I right?
You are absolutely right! Whilst the Papillon is indeed a member of the Toy group and was bred as a lap dog or companion dog, they offer so much more. And, more importantly, they need so much more. The breed is friendly and energetic, outgoing and intelligent. Although weighing no more than 4.5kg, the Papillon is a good ratter and can make an alert and vocal 'guard' dog!
It is a highly trainable breed, often seen as a favourite with agility enthusiasts, or excelling in the obedience ring. So although this is a small dog with little legs, he needs plenty of exercise and regular mental stimulation in order to stay calm and relaxed and live up to the reputation of being a good lap dog. If your grandma is not able to offer her dog enough variety of exercise hopefully you can find ways to ensure it receives as much stimulation as it needs through the help of other people.
Contact caroline.fardell1@btinternet.com or call Caroline on 07530 504340
Pets
Pointing the way
 Caroline Fardell of Hound Solutions looks at more aspects of dog behaviour
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