It's the end of a long stressful day of work. You come home and let your dog out in the backyard to do her business. You're tired and all you want to do is take off your work clothes and relax. You call your pup to come inside, but she acts like she's ignoring you. You call her more intensely and this time she moves slowly in your general direction but makes a wide arc around the yard. Growing more frustrated, you yell her name. This time she slows down even more and stops to sniff the azalea bush. You also see her yawn or maybe, half-close her eyes. Exasperated, you leave her and go inside in a huff and shut the door. At this point, she comes running to be let in and you're wondering why your dog is vexing you. Does this sound familiar?
We think our dogs are being passive aggressive during such occasions, but the truth is that everything your pup was doing in this scenario was an effort to get you to relax. Dogs are excellent as sensing tension and stress. In the dog world, such tension would usually lead to an altercation, so your dog wants to calm you as quickly as possible. The only problem is that you aren't versed in dog language. Slow movements, lack of eye contact, an wide-arcing approach, slow yawns, half-closed eyes, and sniffing the ground or pretending to do something else are all signals that tell other dogs to please calm down. And they work too! Usually other dogs will respond by mimicking these same techniques. It's the same as when we ask a friend who is agitated to breathe deeply or sit down with us.
We know we can easily make our dogs excited by jumping up and down and smiling and saying their name. We've seen them cower if we yell. But we often don't realize how our mood affects our dogs when we are in less excited states. Even when we aren't aware that we're tense, our dogs know. So, if you see your dog doing any of these behaviors, your best bet is to try and relax. Clear your mind. Lower your shoulders. Maybe stop and sniff the flowers too. When you do, you'll notice how amiable your dog suddenly becomes.