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Dog Language 101

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Memphis Animal Services is partnering with Positive Dog Trainers of the Mid-South to co-host "Dog as a Second Language," a canine body language seminar for pet enthusiasts at the Benjamin L.Hooks Central Library.

"To reframe this, we're not so much speaking the dog's language as reading a dog's language," says Positive Dog Trainers founder Ann Marie Easton. "We may make a very good attempt, but we are never really going to be able to speak their body language in the same way that they can with each other." Easton does think people can do a much better job of understanding what their dogs are trying to tell them.

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"We all know the wiggly giggly 'I'm all excited' signals, but most of us don't understand other signals," Easton says. "For example, if you go up to pet a dog and they lick their lips, we THINK they are saying, 'I'm a little stressed.' So if you move your hand away it's a positive experience for the dog. It's like, 'Ah, you get me!'"

Dog as a Second Language is a humans-only event since pets aren't allowed in the library. Nevertheless, Easton says the program will "look at the whole dog."

"What do different parts of the body say?" Easton asks, quickly reminding that bites and wagging tales aren't mutually exclusive.

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