Frequently, I find myself explaining to animals and their people that human body language and animal body language are different. For example, humans will often look a dog straight in the eye and bend with their torso to call their dog to them or to greet a strange dog. In doing so, we humans think we are being friendly and inviting, but in actual reality this behavior is a form of dominance. Of course there are exceptions where owners can look lovingly into their dog’s eyes, but this is a raising of consciousness beyond animal body language.
If you have ever watched dogs play or even get in a fight, the more dominant dog may throw its chin or paw up on the other dog’s shoulder. We humans mimic this behavior when we bend with our torso.
If we straighten our upper bodies, bend with our knees, and gaze softly (at our dogs and then away from our dogs), many canines would “come” faster and be less aggressive toward humans.
Here I ask my animals, “What is the best way for humans to approach you?” Granted this is an individual’s opinion. I am asking them to be the spokes animal for the species.
Stormy, my Aussie dog, says, “I like people to approach me from the side and pet my shoulder first. I don’t really like people petting my head too much. But I love people petting my shoulders and my back. Don’t lean over me. It makes me feel too crowded.”
Makia, my white cat, says, “I think it is important that people move slow and have the intention that they are going to leave the animal on the ground. I don’t like it when people move fast toward me with the idea of picking me up. Let me stand on my own four paws.”
Bean, my bunny, says, “I don’t really like people approaching me. I like them to say hi from a distance, but if it is someone I know, I want them to move slow, kneel down next to me, and pet my back before my head.”
Seamora, my blue and gold macaw, says, “People should walk up to me slowly and start dancing. I love to watch people dancing. We can dance together to get to know one another.” I am not sure if this is the feelings all macaws. I will keep you posted on this one.
Jubilee, my young Appaloosa sport horse, says, “Walk up to my side and pet my shoulder. Tell me I am a good girl, and don’t look me right in the eye. Look at the side of my neck or my back. Then I am the most comfortable.”
Luca, my young poodle, says, “I like it when you are a kid and you are small. Small people are the best. If you are a big person and want to pet me, it is best to bend with your knees and talk to me first. I also like to smell you first. Then pet my shoulder and my back. Don’t pet my head.”
Serafina, my gray cat, says, “Slow is the best way. You can look down at me, but don’t pet me first. Talk to me for a second, and then pet me. People rush up to animals and put their hands all over them too quickly. Say hello first and get to know me before you touch me.”
Stormy adds, “I love a massage. You are welcome to massage me but pay attention to me. I may tell you that your hand is too heavy or that you are kneading me too much and it hurts. If you look at me and I have my mouth open, I am smiling and it feels good. If I have my mouth closed and am looking at you intensely you are hurting me.”
So basically what my animals are saying is walk slowly, make a connection by talking to them before you reach for them, bend down slowly with your knees not your torso, be soft with your eyes and do not look them directly in the eyes, refrain from petting their head, and be conscious if you are petting them too hard or not. This is actually seems like a good way to greet people as well.