Wednesday, August 21, 2019


Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

 Sassie thought about her mother and the way she had taught so many of the lessons.  It was a play method but also important communication skills.  Recently they had begun to learn many of the social skills.  Goldie considered these lessons an introduction to manners.
The first lesson in manners was the Look Away.  It involved the orientation of nose and eyes.  The eyes are looking where the nose is pointing.  There is no body tension and the tail has a long sweep to it.  This Look Away position is used if a dog approached.  

Looking away from an approaching dog is the polite way to encourage the approaching dog to continue to come toward us.

She stresses that to stare into the eyes of an approaching dog is not only impolite or rude, but this stare says, “I want to attack or fight you!”  She continued to explain that the opposite of staring is blinking.  Blinking is always a positive message.

The Paw Lift can indicate curiosity or uncertainty.  Sometimes the Paw Lift may be used when stalking or pointing.  This lift can accompany a moment of silence.  The anticipatory Paw Lift is used when a dog is alert.  The ears are up and the eyes are intensely focused on a particular object.  The Paw Lift can also be a waiting gesture.  This is used in anticipation of a pleasant event.  Mom taught that a Paw Lift is usually a positive message.         

The Butt Sniff is the way dogs can find out about each other.  The mannerly dog will never enter another dog’s personal space.  During a mannerly sniff, the body posture of both dogs would be relaxed.  However, if the dog doing the Butt Sniff is diving for a rude or unwanted sniff, the other dog (the dog being sniffed) will indicate a tucked tail or ears plastered back against the head as a statement of disapproval.

We learned some calming signals like the Lip Flick, sniffing, yawning, down with belly to the ground, scratching, and shaking off.  Calming Signals are used to prevent things from happening and to make friends with people and dogs.  Sometimes the calming signals can also be used as Negotiation Signals.

On this day, we decided to practice some of the social moves.  We started our play with the usual Play Bow.  We played until the night had surrounded us.  One by one we entered the den for a good night’s rest.   Sassie did not know that this would be the last time she would spend a night with her family.


With her permission, I am serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, the material from this novel by Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through

As her editor and coach, I aided Helen through my endeavor.

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