Can dogs 'unlearn' or 'forget' the canine language?

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Charlie- Chaplin

A day without- laughter is a- day wasted
Barked: Tue Jul 9, '13 2:10pm PST 
I've been learning a lot more about canine language, body language, calming signals, etc. So the standard, 'polite' approach to another dog would be at a slight curve from what I've heard and the dogs should respond to another dog's head tilt or body reposition to the side.

I've seen a few dogs on walks that completely dismiss the standard greetings or understandings of these calming signals or appeasement behaviors and postures. One dog approaches very straight, the other turns to the side or turns his head. The 'rude' dog continues forward ignoring the calming signals and rigidly puts his head over the dog's shoulders or lunges as the owner continues to walk by or stops in front of the other dog and handler.

What does it mean? Is the dog disregarding the calming signals or is he just saying, "I don't care, I'm the boss of you, now deal with it." But when I see this behavior from the 'disrespectful' dog continuing after many calming signals from the other then the dog trying to diffuse the tension suddenly lunges back or gets angry, etc.

So can a dog forget some some of their own language? Is there a way to reteach them it? Or does this behavior mean something else?

Edited by author Tue Jul 9, '13 2:22pm PST


Lenny -The- Wrecking Ball
Barked: Tue Jul 9, '13 2:38pm PST 
I think a lot of dogs are never taught it to begin with. I think a lot of puppies miss out on proper socialization, and even if they get it as puppies people don't continue to follow through with socialization so I think dogs can get out of practice so to speak. I know Lenny gets... more polite with his greetings the more often I take him to the dog park. When we go longer without going he'll be more abrupt in approaching. Now he's a fairly timid boy to begin with so he's not the overly confident pushy type anyways, but his body language is much more appropriate the more often he's around other dogs even just observing them.

I can't speak so much about the reteaching. I see a lot of dogs that have NO idea what other dogs are communicating to them. I've seen dogs that are baring teeth, growling and giving whale eye and the other dog just continues as if nothing is happening.

I'd love to hear what others say about this who have more experience in dog training and behavior.
Jackson Tan

Lad about town
Barked: Wed Jul 10, '13 2:50am PST 
I'm almost certain dogs cannot 'forget' their native language, but there are many out there who do not seem to grasp it as well as other dogs, probably from not learning it properly to begin with. These dogs come across as rude and can start fights inadvertently.

There are some trainers out there who 'teach' correct body language using special pack classes with very astute dogs. Likewise Turid Rugaas used her Vallhund Saga to instruct and calm dogs not grasping the signals. So dogs can absolutely learn them at a later age.


Barked: Fri Jul 12, '13 3:42pm PST 
Im thinking the dogs never learned. I dog sit a doodle that is pretty dog dumb in my opinion.
We have been watching him for 4 yrs and not yet have my dogs even tried to accept him. They can co exist with supervision, but I am constantly protecting him because my dogs multiple warnings is never enough. He literally will walk around with his nose practically in their butt. Even if they turn around and air snap next to his face he will continue.
Ive seen it with a friends dog to at the lake. My dog had a ball, just got it from the water, she ran close to him, he froze he turned his body, he growled and she had NO regard for it. I ran over and took the ball and redirected my friends dog before she got eaten!
I think its because these dogs never learned respect. I have ran a multi dog household with visitors for a while now 10+ yrs. The dogs that are fine are the ones who listen to warnings, and ask permission. The ones that are in trouble are ones that basically act like 9 week old puppies. Always oblivious to the world.
When a friend gets a new dog and we met for the first time I use my more tolerant dog first to see how the dog responds to warnings if any. I usually refer to my dogs as dog savvy dogs. They know their limits and respect dogs if needed, and they also stay away from other dogs that want to eat them!

I dig in mud- puddles!
Barked: Fri Jul 12, '13 6:06pm PST 
I'm surprised that it hasn't been mentioned that fearful dogs, reactive dogs, and frustrated greeters in particular, can "forget" what appropriate body language is when they are beyond their threshold, but for the most part, if you watch these dogs interact off-leash or with familiar dogs, then they are perfectly fine.

I have a dog that is reactive to other dogs, but when I carefully and slowly introduce her and that fear dissolves, her normal, appropriate, and polite doggy manners reappear.

I would say that most people can be like this too. When we are over our threshold (from pain, stress, a horrid day etc.), I would hazard that most of us don't always behave according to societal norms!

And of course, you will have dogs that didn't learn those proper dog manners and body language, whether from improper socialization, being taken away from the litter too early etc.

Awesome Dog
Barked: Sun Jul 14, '13 1:10pm PST 
I think it boils down to the fact that a lot of dogs don't get the proper social experiences when they're young. It's not that they forget--it's that they didn't learn it in the first place! It's only through interacting with others that we all learn what is socially acceptable or not. And what one dog might find acceptable and fine doesn't mean that ALL dogs are okay with that. So socializing a puppy with his housemates only doesn't give him a good basis to go on regarding proper canine etiquette (unless he happens to live with a great communicator).

I have also seen many dogs who seem completely oblivious to another dog's outward signs of discomfort. Even to the point that, after a pretty obvious correction from one dog, they come right back for more. They may be blissfully ignorant but they're stressing out a lot of other dogs that they meet!

Risa is dog reactive but she is a great communicator. If most dogs were better listeners, we would not have a problem. wink Despite her reactive displays, however, she is actually pretty good with other dogs. Once she is comfortable and has the ability to leave if she feels like it anyway.

Edited by author Sun Jul 14, '13 1:11pm PST