Yet, every dog owner knows that his or her baby is communicating something. We all become experts in reading body language when it comes to our pets.
We know what a threat looks like when our little angel bares her teeth, tenses her muscles and raises the fur on her back.
We know the joy our little guy exhibits when he’s flying across the yard to fetch a stick or a ball we have just thrown.
So, what is Wilbur trying to say?
The tail is a giveaway. He wants to play, but that’s just one part of it. Why does he just sit there?
Humans don’t have tails, the emotional barometer of dogs like Wilbur, so we have to read a more subtle set of signals. What other cues is Wilbur sending you?
His facial expression and eye contact don’t change so that’s not very helpful. Wait! Look at Wilbur’s front legs. There’s your answer!
Wilbur is using his legs in an attempt to prompt his owner into action. He twitches one leg or both legs to get his owner to respond. If the owner reacts by moving, the game is on. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
Every interaction between two living things is a series of dance steps. It works so well that by looking at one member of the dance party, we can often tell what the other partner is doing. In this case, Wilbur hears the music. He’s initiating the dance, but the owner isn’t moving. How do we know?
First, even though he is prompting by twitching his legs, Wilbur is still waiting for the alpha dog, the owner, to signal that the game is on. If the owner reacts by moving in response to Wilbur’s feet, it would tell the dog that the game has begun. That hasn’t happened. How do we know?
That’s our second clue; the fact that the video is not moving tells us that the owner is not moving either.
Try it with your dog. Call him over and then calmly look at him without moving. Then, figure out what he’s trying to tell you.
If he wants to play he might lower himself and tense like he’s ready to pounce or he might glance over at his bowl if he’s hungry or thirsty.
If you’re seated, he might just determine that you’re lonely and rest his head on your lap.
Even though humans generally rely on speech to communicate, we also signal just about everything we feel through nonverbal communication or body language, just like Wilbur.