The Grumpy Bitch - a little more than body language

In dog social situations, such as at the dog park, my dog, Pico, often eschews calming signals to be a grumpy bitch (bitch here in its original definition of female canine.) This is behavior that we humans tend to think is rude, but most dogs immediately understand and take in stride.  Essentially, this is how a mother dog behaves with her puppies when they are getting old enough to be self-sufficient and they are bugging her.  I've only seen this from bitches who have had at least one litter, but I would imagine that non-dams and males could pick it up by observation.

For Pico, this behavior follows a specific pattern.  First she will move to a stance that shows she is uncomfortable with the situation standing with a rounded topline, erect tail, and braced legs (similar to the position she is displaying in this video.)  If the dog or dogs in question don't take the clue and leave her alone at this point, she'll lift her lip when other dogs come too close.  Next she moves to growling. If that doesn't work, she'll move to warning nips from a large distance - for instance she'll snap her teeth from a foot or more away.  Adult dogs pretty much always "get it" early on and leave her alone.  Sometimes puppies (or dogs that were removed from their dam and litter too early) don't get it.  I always try to step in and protect Pico from dogs that are bugging her - that's part of our contract.  I usually intervene by blocking Occasionally, on our walks we come across neighborhood puppies that are better at running off than their owner's expect and we need to corral the puppy until the owner catches up - so Pico has to put up with them. If her initial signals don't work, she gives up and just lies down and lets the offending puppies swarm all over her while she ignores them (though her eyes roll and you can see that she wishes that she'd never have to see a puppy again.)

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