This month I will be looking at ‘ Canine Communication ’ by Sally Gutteridge first published in 2019. I have to say I had been eyeing up the series written by Sally for a while on Amazon to help me better understand a read canine behaviour and body language
The author Sally Gutteridge is an ex-military dog trainer and former instructor of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

First Impressions

As a massive sucker for an HPR breed obviously I loved the simplistic stylish front cover, if you are expecting lovely glossy pages like Pippa Mattison’s ‘Total Recall’ you will be disappointed. It is printed on normal paper which is suspect is a cost cutting measure. Although it makes the book seem less ‘professional’ it doesn’t really impact on the content.
The book itself is around 174 pages long with a wide spacing between the lines and easy to separate out chapters. There are some black and white photographs in the book, which would have looked nicer in colour on the glossy paper but you can still see the point being put across clearly.
Oddly enough the standout for me are the wonderful cartoon illustrations showing dog facial and body expressions, really charming and amazing how examples are captured, it really brought the concepts to life and I could easily translate those expressions on to my two dogs.

The Content

The book itself is split into 9 chapters
  1. Individuality
  2. Body Language
  3. Movement
  4. Escalation into stress
  5. Confusion and chatter
  6. Meetings and greetings
  7. Distance control
  8. Play
  9. Conflict
Each chapter is then broken down further into subsections e.g., under movement there are signs of emotional discomfort which are then broken down further into, glancing away, licking, yawning, staring, panting, shake off. At the end of each chapter is an easy list of bulleted takeaway points as a quick summary.
On starting the book, I was worried the topics would be really in depth and heavy to read, but it really wasn’t I found it enjoyable and relatable. I think having your own dog really helps when you read this books as you can then start relating this to different things.
The book starts with an introduction of individuality and how this can sometimes impact the way in which we read dogs, tail carriage, hair length, muzzle size and length, ear placement and length can all impact the way in which we are able to read our dogs, and how dogs can read each other. Interestingly it also goes into vocalisation and brings in the concept of this being the dogs ‘accent’ as well as scent a sight being a huge part as to how dogs communicate.
This then goes onto body language with some lovely examples of facial expressions, tail expressions, ear placements, lips etc. Who knew a left tail wag shows that our dogs are largely uncomfortable with the interaction but a right wag generally shows they are happy – (If you have a spaniel, I assume you will need to film and watch that one on slo-mo!).
All of the following chapters around movement, escalation into stress and confusion and chatter, all follow the previous example with images or illustrations of the behaviour, examples as to why they may display this behaviour such as lip licking, turning the head away, submission rolling etc.
For someone who has issues with meeting a greeting other dogs as I often worry about the other humans’ manners let alone the dogs! I found this chapter really interesting as well as the one about signs the dog needs distance. The photos were really helpful as to examples of what is going for the dogs in the images. However, I found myself almost wanting the images to be videos for me to better understand movement around that (such is the limitation in books!).
I have to say I found all of the chapters, positive engaging, easy to understand, not too academic and written in an easy to use and understand language.

In conclusion

I have two dogs both GSP x Labradors, the first a rescue who is reactive and aggressive towards Labradors and the second a puppy being trained as my first gundog. Although they have similar breed characteristics, they are completely different personality wise and it was nice to be able to read a book which could help me look for signs of stress in my older dog (11) and also signs of stress, boredom or discomfort in my younger dog (18 months). What this book has helped me to do us better understand when I am being with them, working them, training them or they are interacting with other dogs actually what they are communicating.
For instance my puppy will often yawn under stress when he is being asked to do something that he finds hard (largely impulse control exercises). So without him being able to tell me I can read him and work with him better, and as dog owners isn’t that all we really want?
For me this book is just fantastic and one I will go to over an over again, to help me better understand my dogs, what they are telling me, what they are telling each other and more importantly also the body language of other dogs that they may end up interacting with. For me this is essential when looking to keep our dogs happy, healthy and safe. For me a must by that I don’t feel you will be disappointed with.

Emma xx

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