Blog the Change for Denver….

Today is Blog the Change for Animals day–this is a virtual event where bloggers from around the blogosphere come together in support of animals.  Sharing inspiring stories, sharing information about rescues, and spreading information about a variety of causes.  Blog the Change happens four times a year on 1/15, 4/15, 7/5, and 10/15.  This is such an amazing event–in January I spent an entire week making my way through nearly all of the blogs that were a part of the blog hop.  Unfortunately I can’t post the hop on wordpress, but you can find it by clicking the badge or the link up above.  Please take a moment and visit a few of the blogs and see what’s going on!

I had intended on showcasing another rescue I’m fond of but I felt compelled to blog the change for Denver the “Guilty Dog.”  Denver’s video went viral on youtube a few weeks ago and while Denver is ridiculously adorable, it absolutely hurt my heart.  I couldn’t believe all the dog owners who passed this along and laughed–they were totally unaware of what Denver was actually trying to communicate with her body language.  So, I was inspired to blog the change for all dogs who people call guilty because of their body language and who are subsequently punished–I want to educate dog owners about canine body language and hopefully dogs will not be punished just because they “look guilty”.  For those of you who haven’t seen the video here it is….

Denver, and other “guilty” dogs are not showing their guilt.  They read our body language, notice our breathing, smell our body chemicals, and hear our tone of voice–if any of those things are off, alarming, or concerning, the dog is going to respond by showing appeasement gestures (aka submissive gestures or stress signals).  In the video Denver shows many of these, she looks away, lowers her head, yawns, licks her lips, shows a “whale eye” (sliver of white around the eyes), closes her eyes softly, wags a low and quick tail, and shows what’s called a submissive smile (or submissive grimace).  Denver is not saying “I’m guilty, it was me and I’m sorry”… Denver is saying “I’m no threat to you, you are making me uncomfortable, please don’t hurt me.  Calm down dad, it’s okay.  Just relax a minute, please”  Isn’t that sad?  Denver is punished and has no idea why… all she was trying to communicate was that her owner was making her feel uncomfortable and scared.

Check out this video.. another “guilty” dog…

When a dog is giving those signals, he/she is incredibly uncomfortable and concerned.  If you own a dog (or regularly around dogs), you should check out some body language books/photos and discover what your dog is trying to communicate to you.  Poor Denver is desperately trying to communicate to her owner to calm down, but her owner is seemingly oblivious to the stress he is causing his dog.  I wish people would just rethink what is actually happening in this video and not pass it along with such levity because it’s actually quite sad when you think of it from the point of view of reading Denver’s body language.

What type of calming signals do your dogs give when it’s bath time, or when you raise your voice, or when you clip nails, or when you etc… just take a minute and actually watch your dog… see how he/she is trying to communicate with you in the only way he/she knows how.

Here are some more photos with descriptions of appeasement gestures.

This dog is smiling, with ears low and back, soft almond eyes (half closed), and looking away

This dog has a pronounced whale eye (whites of eye showing), with a low hung head and "slinking" posture

This dog is displaying his stress through a lip-lick

Okay so Rio isnt stressed here but YAWNING is a very common appeasement gesture. Often a dog will yawn, turn away, and blink simultaneously and throw in a lip lick to be clear

For more information on canine body language check out Canine Body Language–A Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff or On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas.

Happy Blog Hopping!!

  1. Oh my goodness, I also wrote about Denver a few weeks ago! And I completely agree with you. Denver is exhibiting all the calming signals of a dog who is trying to appease the guardian. I think Denver is reacting to the tone of the man’s voice (in the present moment)…not a forbidden snack eaten (in the past). Here is my post on Denver, the so-called “guilty” dog:

  2. Awesome article! Can you imagine how much bite statistics would decrease if more people were generally aware of dog body language?!

  3. What a fantastic topic to cover! Dog body language is so important and can be so difficult to read unless you know what you are doing. I think most humans tend to think dogs communicate in much the same way we do, which is obviously just not true. It’s vital for every dog owner to at least understand the basics of dog communication to be able to tell when their dog is over-stressed or potentially ill.

  4. Extremely important information about dogs and body language – thanks for sharing! Definitely is something more people need to be aware of!

    Thank you for blogging the change!

    Kim Thomas from

  5. Love it!

  6. Such a great, informative post. Thank you so much for this, especially for including so many helpful photos to go along with the videos.

  7. Canine Body language is one of my favorite books. Excellent for showing people the difference between what people think a dog is thinking and what a dog is actually communicating. Great topic. I felt the same way when I first saw the video you referenced.

  8. Great post – I had to link it in mine!

  9. I said the same thing when someone I know posted this video.. I said it was heartbreaking how hard she was trying to appease her owner!

    A simple DVD called “The Language of Dogs” could really educate some people!

  10. Fantastic post. It’s really important to educate people about trying to understand what their dogs are trying to communitcate to them.

  11. Hi! Thank you for mentioning the video I posted, “Is Denver really guilty?” that shows Alexandra Horowitz’s research into the “guilty look”. I study animal behavior and focus on sharing research studies with the public. Cheers!

  12. Amen! I went on a total rant about this a few weeks ago too. That video made me so sad and frustrated … especially after they went on Good Morning America.

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