Hiking across the field at the front of our farm, I heard the signature jingle of Baxter’s tags behind me. A few minutes before, he’d dove into the brush between the front field and the east field, sure he’d seen a squirrel or a chipmunk.
A year ago, watching my off-leash dog sprint away from me pursuing some creature would have caused me a lot of anxiety. Walking away from him while he was still absorbed in his quest was a bit of a test.
Would he remember I existed?
Hearing the jingle of his tags, I was thrilled that he had given up the chase and was catching up with me. I wanted to acknowledge him and celebrate what a good boy he was. I turned around and said—in a voice that showed I understood how excited he’d been—“Did you see a squirrel?”
He didn’t register my question. In fact, rather than celebrating the squirrel sighting with me, he stopped and investigated an interesting sniff in the weeds.
For a moment, I considered being offended. Then I gave myself a mental forehead slap and said, “Duh! You’re not speaking dog!”
As Baxter resumed walking towards me, I bent down towards him in my best imitation of a play bow.
He got the message!
He happily scampered towards me and then we sprinted across the field together, reveling in the excitement of fresh air, fall afternoons, freedom, and—of course—squirrels.
The lesson to speak to my dog using body language more than vocal language is one that hit home when I read The Other End of the Leash. Since then, I’ve been practicing my body language—and especially my play bow.
I hope that by “playing” with Baxter, he starts to think of me as more fun than squirrels.
Do you play bow with your dog?
Julia Thomson is a regular writer for That Mutt. Visit her blog Home on 129 Acres here.