Ever since I became interested in dog training and behaviour, one of the things that I found most challenging was dog language. Unlike us, that we mainly communicate by speaking, dogs use body language as their main means of communication.
In addition to this, all the dogs I had before Nix lived in the countryside, where meeting other dogs on walks was unsual. In fact, most of the encounters with other dogs took place at the vet, which is hardly the best place to learn about natural ways for dogs to communicate.
So, most of the knowledge I had about dog language was dog language directed towards people, not other dogs. So I though it’d be interesting to learn more about the topic.
The Book: Canine Body Language
The book Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide, by Brenda Aloff, focuses precisely on this: dog body language. It’s almost 400 pages long and it’s structured into the following sections: Expressions of an Emotional State, Calming & Negotiation Signals, Neutral & Friendly, Space Invaders, Predation, Play and It’s the Quiz Section!
Each section is structured into subsections referring either to certain behaviours or emotional states related to the section. So, for example, for Section 1: Expressions of an Emotional State, the subsections are: Relaxed & Neutral, Confidence, Curiosity, Rolling, Companionship, Stress Signals, Fear, Caution, Anxiety & Avoidance, Smile, Smile, Smile, and Larko Meets Sheep.
Every subsection of the book is illustrated with many pictures showing the different facial expressions, body postures, body movements, etc. that indicate said emotional state. The author explains, for each picture, its corresponding context and the signs that show that the dog is in a certain emotional state.
The book is pretty big and heavy, although it comes with soft covers. So it’s not a book to that can be carried around easily to read on the commute to work. It’s priced around $30 / €32 / £32.
This is a great and unique book. I don’t think that there any other books out there which deal with the same depth as this one on a dog’s language, or at least, that include so many pictures. I certainly recommend it to anyone who is interested in dog body language, which should be anyone who owns a dog, in my opinion.
The book can be read back-to-back, but it should be read multiple times and used as a reference guide. The final part includes a quiz to test how much you’ve learned, which is a nice addition.
The book, however, does have its drawbacks. All the photos are in black and white and the quality of many is not great. In consequence, it’s sometimes difficult to see what the author points out, especially when it comes to seeing tension in the dog’s face.
I understand that publishing this book in colour would probably increase its costs enormously. However, maybe it’d be a good idea to create a digital version of the book with the pictures in colour, or update the book with higher quality pictures. Maybe the problem could also be solved by editing the current pictures.
In any case, despite these disadvantages, the book is worth buying and having.
Aloff, Brenda. Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide. 1st Edition. Wenatchee, USA: Dogwise, 2005.