Wolfish or Puppyish? Dogs speak

Is your dog cool with other dogs?

If not, do you wonder why?

Dogs vary widely in dog-to-dog manners and social graces. Some dogs seem born with confident, easy and even temperaments. Like people, dogs can rise or fall in social ranking, depending on the mix of other individuals in a group. Experience and health changes too can change a dog’s social functioning and status among other dogs.

Stanley Coren, in his book How to Speak Dog, explains that due to breeding programs over a long-span of time, certain breeds tend to produce dogs that are more puppyish or selected for their neoteny. Neoteny is retention of juvenile characteristics in the adults of a species.

Puppyish dogs = companion dogs, often small.

They rarely relate to other dogs by social ranking.

Where did my people go? Mom, come back.

Watch a small dog puff up & growl or bark at a larger dog?

Welcome to my world. Our fifteen pound dog, Sydney, lives like a prepetual puppy. He shows no manners when big dogs enter his world. His anxiety, at times, changes a calm trail walk into dangerous moments. We don’t know why he objects or is fearful of certain dogs. If he  real danger from an aggressive or out-of-control dog, we always pick him up.

and makes a fool of himself if he likes another small dog. He jumps allover other little dogs (if we let him) when at play. He acts cool with some big dogs. He likes puppies of all sizes. But on a trail walk, he will turn with a snarl and strain at his harness toward big dog we just passed. Go figure!

Little dogs goof up more often than big dogs.

Sydney O'
Sydney O’

Big dogs speak a different language

Often big dogs ignore little noisy dogs. A number of larger breeds have good manners and treat these little dogs like puppies, at times ignoring or gently correcting a small dog’s bid for attention.

Cool Dudes at a Street Market
Unflappable. Love calm cool and collected big dogs.

 Big dogs show cool-headedness

According to Coren, these calmer, often larger dogs act more wolfish or adult-like. They develop beyond the stage of puppy rudeness and silly mistakes. They obey social ranking and use body language, which prevents most dogfights. By turning sideways, freezing or sitting in the presence of a higher, socially ranked dog, these more grown up dogs communicate, “I’m no threat to you.” These superior ranking dogs read and accept the “wolfish” body postures and facial expressions of other big dogs.

Coren makes it clear that there are different dialects of “Doggish” being spoken between dogs.

Little dogs & little dog parents

People with little dogs or dogs that don’t understand “Wolfish” should be on the alert and protect their more puppy like pets. Careful parenting of small or young dogs can prevent them from making life-threatening mistakes. Young dogs under the age of two also need extra supervision to understand, respect and obey the unspoken rules of  “Wolfish.”

Observe mutts or mixed breed dogs during their dog-to-dog social behavior. Does the dog turn aside, freeze or make himself smaller when greeting larger or socially dominate dogs. Does he jump or go nose-to-nose with larger dogs? If this is the case, then socializing with other dogs will always need close supervision.

There is a range of social maturity and skill in dogs. Good dog parents learn this. Dog leaders must learn this too. The safety of both little and big dogs are at stake. If a big dog bites or injures a smaller or younger dog that big dog is at risk of being labeled an aggressive dog, and in some cases the big dog may lose his life. So dog parents with big more “Wolfish” dogs should be alert to this wide variation in social maturity and “Doggish” language skills.

How to Speak Dog (page 215) offers a list of ten different dog breeds studied by a research team at Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Southampton in Great Britain. This team ranked dogs from the breeds that spoke only “Puppyish” versions of the canine tongue to those breeds who spoke the more adult, “Wolfish,” ranking social language.

1. Cavalier King Charles spaniel

2. Norfolk terrier

3. French bulldog

4. Shetland sheepdog

5. Cocker spaniel

6. Munstterlander

7. Labrador retriever

8. German shepherd

9. Golden retriever

10. Siberian husky

My nose loves smelly sands
Lucky dog, well mannered with good off-leash training

If you want to learn more about how dogs communicate with each other and people, read How to Speak Dog. Each page offers insight, observation and research on the world of dogs. Plus “A Doggish Phrasebook” at the end and illustrations of dog facial and bodily expressions and what those expressions communicate.

How to Speak Dog Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication by Stanley Coren

What does your dog speak “Wolfish” or “Puppyish?”

3 thoughts on “Wolfish or Puppyish? Dogs speak

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