Gettin’ Schooled on Freaky Friday

Time for a Freaky Friday multiple choice quiz! Freaky Friday is the day we see the world from the dog’s perspective (just like Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan did when they switched bodies in the movie).

I thought I’d try out a twist to the format (thanks to your feedback). Below the photo I will point out some body language the dog is displaying that gives clues into how he or she is feeling. Since this Friday’s photo is from a classroom, I thought I’d offer a multiple choice quiz, too (see below). Please let me know what you think, about the clues, the quiz and about the dog’s perspective.

This dog may love children. His person is generously sharing him with the kids. All good, in theory. But what is the dog’s perspective, at least in this moment (copied with permission with the N&O)? What do you notice about his ears, eyes, mouth, body position/direction/movement?


Ears: stiff and rotated half-back
Eyes: wide, pupils very dilated (a bit hard to see in the copy of the print)
Mouth: shallow panting, corners of mouth drawn far back
Body: head turned away from kids, moving away (biggest and clearest clue)

Quiz time! Choose one based on what the dog is trying to tell us with his body language:

a) This dog would probably like it if the humans kept doing what they are doing.

b) This dog is feeling very relaxed.

c) This dog is trying to create space for himself because he is not feeling comfortable.

Extra credit: If you were the dog’s handler, how would you rearrange the space and positioning of yourself, your dog, and the kids? What instructions would you have given the kids in advance? What would you do/say to the kids right this minute if you noticed all these signs of stress in your dog?

Study aids:

Madeline Gabriel’s new blog post on what to do when other kids are around your dog: Dogs and Babies Learning
Wendy Wahmann’s (funny and wise) book on the right way for kids to make friends with dogs: Don’t Lick the Dog (book trailer)
K9Kindness for new doggie educational programs in the classroom: K9Kindness

I look forward to your questions and comments. No grades, but you get points for trying to imagine how this dog feels!

3 thoughts on “Gettin’ Schooled on Freaky Friday

  1. I love your comment that the most important sign is the dog moving/looking AWAY from the children. I don’t know that anyone knows to consider — is the dog trying to make space for himself? Giving an animal space is a kindness anyone can do once they recognize that’s what a dog needs. Maybe that’s a question we can teach kids to ask and learn to recognize. Showing photos like this is a great way to help people step outside the moment and ponder – and then maybe recognize in their own situations.

    1. Thank you, Madeline. This conversation you describe makes me think of a meeting of two languages, verbal and physical. Sometimes I think people overlook how a dog is feeling because most are never taught how to “speak dog.” Until a dog is growling, snapping or lunging, most people don’t think the dog is “saying” anything. But of course dogs are saying *loads* and we just need to be a little bit bilingual to be respectful of them. (And isn’t that how we want our kids to act toward others, dog and human? Respectful and caring of how the other feels?)

      The easiest way to learn to begin to speak dog is a) to acknowledge the dog is expressing feelings, desires, and intentions. And b) to just stop, pause, and “listen” with our eyes to what the dog is saying. Start with something easy, like, “Is the dog moving closer to me, staying put or moving/turning away?” Unless a dog is moving closer for more, s/he is saying, “Don’t touch me right now.” (BTW this very page has an ABC’s of Dog Safety & Respect anyone can click on & print.)

      Ok, extra credit questions, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

      1. Here’s the extra credit: Kids (and adults) should not approach a dog they want to pet, any more than they should walk up to someone they think is pretty to touch their hair. They should follow the ABC’s (as outlined in the downloadable, kid-friendly handout above). Which means standing still and waiting to see if the dog approaches them. The kids in this photos should have been instructed how to do this.

        Kids should always pet a dog (who has asked to be touched by approaching them) one at a time only. The kids in the photo are mobbing the dog with overhand petting on his back—if he didn’t mind he wouldn’t be showing those signs of stress and trying to leave.

        If I were the dog’s handler, I would not be in a chair, effectively trapping the dog between the kids and me, and making it so I can’t guide the kids. I would be standing beside the dog, and another adult who has been coached in the ABC’s would be assisting each child, one at a time.

        However, if I saw any of those signs of stress in my dog, however subtle they may be, I would not do a greeting or touching exercise at all. The kids would be in their seats and I would help my dog feel comfortable with more space, a mat to relax on, or a trick depending on his personality and needs in that moment. We would talk about dog care, do Q&A, or cover some other dog topic.

        If we want kids to learn respect and the importance of identifying with the feelings of others, we need to start by modeling that with others, including dogs.

        Big gold star for the kid in the forefront, I think his behavior is exemplary! 🙂

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