Monster’s Corner – Break the Stare

Monster’s Corner is a new feature by Pinehurst resident Sonja Shannae to share dog tips, help with dog-dog and dog-human safety, and perhaps some behavior tips. Sonja is a Canine Enrichment Specialist and has a long history of professional and volunteer work with dogs, and she graduated from the Northwest School of Canine Studies in 2015 for trainer certification.

Today in Monster’s Corner is something simple you can do on a walk to help keep it calm: break the stare!

When one dog sees another sometimes one or both get what is called a “hard stare”. I would describe this behavior as sustained intense gazing that in dog-dog body language communication is super rude! If you watch closely, this behavior is often combined with slightly slower, lower, and stilted gait,┬ásimilar to what dogs look like when they are stalking. You might find that even non-reactive dogs can tip in to a reaction when there’s been a staring contest.

What to do? Break that eye contact! Don’t allow your dog to stare and get plenty of space from the staring dog. Additionally, if you are talking to your dog to get their attention, do so in a light happy tone and do something silly. Dogs with tense body language look like a threat while conversely dogs with silly floppy body language do not. My favorite is to have my dogs practice “twirl” and “touch” until the staring dog has passed by. When the dogs are clear of each other be sure to tell all parties that they’re good dogs!

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