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Eye contact with a pooch is important

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Eye contact with a pooch is important

It is said that never look into the eyes of a dog, it is considered a challenge and the dog may accept it and attack. Hence, I looked at his eyes discreetly. For a brief second our eyes met and he blinked and began to look the other way...

Eye contact with a pooch is important

Know Your Pooch

VK Joshi

The writer is former director, GSI, and an avid animal lover. His understanding of man's best friend comes from over six decades of dedicated association with it

After a nearly two-month-long sojourn, I am back on my soil. The first thing I noticed in New Delhi, in the colony in which I am living these days, is a large number of stray dogs. I am told that some of them have bitten quite a few people. Well, I have something different to share. There is a brown dog on the road below our block. In the bitter cold of Delhi, he sleeps on a bed of leaves during the night and suns himself in the middle of the road whenever the Sun shines. He was snoozing on the pavement in the afternoon when I passed by. He opened one eye then the other and all of sudden as I approached nearer, he was on his haunches, watching me carefully. It is said that never look into the eyes of a dog, it is considered a challenge and the dog may accept it and attack. Hence, I looked at his eyes discreetly. For a brief second our eyes met and he blinked and began to look the other way. After leaving him behind I turned around to check what he was up to, he was staring at me. Again, our eyes met and he looked the other way.

This made me ponder on the significance of eye contact with a dog. Several incidents of the past with my own dogs and dogs of friends whom I had trained, flashed by. I thought of sharing the idea of the significance of eye contact.

Often people tell me that their dog is almost human. He understands our feelings and he can even gauge our moods. Yes, they are right to quite an extent. Dogs use their natural instincts, superpower of their nose, a vision better than ours, and a hearing power, which is 80 times more powerful than ours. He uses his nose to visualize the adrenalin content in our sweat. Thus, if we are angry, he knows it, even if we do not utter a word. But in addition, his uncanny vision tells him that all is not well and he can make out our frowns or lines of sadness or even fear. It is this sharp vision that we make use of in training a dog. He can easily discern a frown of anger or drooping lips of sorrow on our faces. Likewise, if you are observant, you can also make out the mental state of the dog.

For example, you are walking along a road, a dog is busy chewing on a bone behind a bush. You are not aware, but he can discern your footsteps. As you approach nearer, he looks up with a frown, with the bone between his teeth. To him, it looks as if you are about to snatch the bone from him. Whereas you are blissfully ignorant and suddenly he changes position, sits with the bone between his paws, staring at you angrily, growling as you approach closer. At that stage, if you happen to look into his eyes, you can see the angry expression on his face with lips drawn back and teeth slightly exposed. That is the moment when you should keep walking, just ignore him while observing him from the corners of your eyes. Once you pass through, his expression will change to normal and he will once again get busy with his bone. But if you happen to stop for a second, and look into his eyes with fear written large on your face, 75% chances are that he will attack you. And if you are scared and try to walk faster or run, then you have it, you will be mauled.

This was just to explain how observant they are and if they apprehend danger, they don’t waste time, but attack. This also makes it clear that if you own a dog or you are near a dog, you are under constant observation. Your dog watches every frown on your forehead, and every twitch of the muscles on your face. He can read your moods from your expressions and body language.

In other words, if you also become observant like him, you can gauge his next move in advance. For example, when you return from work, your dog knows from your footsteps about your state of health. If you are walking with your normal gait, your footsteps tell him a story and if you are dragging your feet, then he knows that everything is not normal. Likewise, if your dog takes time to get up and move, means that he is suffering from pain in the hind legs. He gets up and roaches his back like a camel means he has a tummy ache. Try to observe minutely and you will learn so many telltale signs from his body language and eye expressions.

In order to understand your dog completely and to train him to obey commands, eye contact with him is equally important. For example, you left him alone at home. To overcome his boredom, he chews off your costly shoe. The moment you notice that your angry face and gait tell him that you are upset. But of course, he doesn’t know for what, because in his society chewing off a hide is common to overcome boredom. For you, it may be a costly patent leather shoe but for him, it is just a hide. To avoid your wrath, he lowers his eyes, as if trying to say sorry, shrinks his body, and tries to seek cover. On the other hand, you believe that he is slinking because he has realized that he has made a mistake and is trying to be apologetic.

Dogs express so much with their eyes and body that volumes can be written. But to make it easy try to note down the expression and the action that followed. Soon you will have a large doggy vocabulary. For example, he may be wagging his tale but his hackles are raised. Look at his eyes they will reflect the anger he may be experiencing for the person approaching your door. The raised hackles mean that he is preparing to launch an attack.

In a nutshell, observe your dog minutely from the day you bring him home. Mentally note his expressions and try to communicate with him by changing your expressions. For example, to show him your happiness a change in tone and a large smile will be enough for him to make out. The eye-contact with your dog is thus, as important as your caressing palm on his body. But eye contact with a strange dog on the street or in a friend’s house is much better avoided!


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