Rosie Lowry: The Tale of a Big Dog

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Tale of a big dog

Informed by her past trauma that led to an ability to truly listen to dogs’ communication, author Rosie Lowry is on a mission to change the way we relate to our beloved four-legged friends.

Rosie, author of Understanding the Silent Communication of Dogs and The Tale of a Big Dog, says, “It’s sometimes challenging for people to hear this, but often our approach to caring for our dogs can be quite damaging to them, even when we are trying our best and acting from a place of love. This is especially true in our approach to communicating with them, and I feel a lot of work needs to be done in re-learning how to listen to them and respond to what they need.”

As someone who has experienced trauma during an abusive relationship Rosie developed a deep affinity with a dogs’ struggle with being dominated and controlled, as well as their often failed attempts to be heard. She understands the internal process that goes on when someone – human or animal – tries to communicate their needs, and, when those are continually ignored, misunderstood or even trivialised, how they may eventually give up trying.

“If we learn to listen to them then they can – and will – given enough time, tell us”

Rosie continues, “It can be hard enough for humans to voice their opinions, and stand up for their rights, needs and wants. Imagine being a totally different species trying to get your message across to someone who is often in their own world, with their own agenda. Heartbreakingly, some dogs learn they have no choice and no voice, and that no matter how hard they try, won’t be listened to.”

She explains, “Because of the mismatch between how dogs communicate using body language and micro movements and how a human may not fully understand or be able to interpret that language, much of what we believe about what dogs need, is regularly untrue. The good news is, however, that if we learn to listen to them then they can – and will – given enough time, tell us.

“Humans can almost become a translator of this language – which is new to us but of course not to dogs. And, by learning how to understand their communication we can open up a whole new world and relationship with our canine friends which can be a revelation, and can completely transform our relationships with them for the better.”

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Image by Pavel Karásek on Pixabay

Conversely when a dog isn’t being listened to, they can go to greater lengths to be heard. This behaviour is often interpreted by humans as ‘bad’ behaviour and can lead to a downward spiral for the dog.

Rosie explains, “As with humans, when animals are not listened to, they may resort to stronger levels of communication which can get them into trouble. We see this in dogs when they grow, snap or bite. or worse for them, they give up entirely. Sadly, we usually interpret their giving up as them being ‘a good dog!’. When in fact, their spirit is broken.” In time both ways often end up causing premature health issues.

Learning how dogs communicate can have a profound effect on the dog and transform their sense of safety and wellbeing. Interestingly, it also can be a way to reduce the number of dogs going into shelters.

We see this pattern in humans too, whereby those who have had difficult upbringings can struggle to form meaningful, long-term, healthy attachments due to past trauma.

Rosie explains, “What we see as ‘bad behaviour’ – for example growling – more often than not leads to further dominance, restrictions and control from humans. The owner may decide the dog is dangerous and this can result in the dog going into a shelter. For some dogs, this will create a downward spiral and lead them to distrust humans, resulting in more ‘bad behaviour’.

“By the time a dog reaches this stage, many people taking on a dog from a shelter will find it hard to deal or live with the challenges they present. The result is often a yo-yoing from home to shelters, when all along the dog only ever needed to feel safe on their terms.”

We see this pattern in humans too, whereby those who have had difficult upbringings can struggle to form meaningful, long-term, healthy attachments due to past trauma. Or who may find it difficult to trust a new partner after an infidelity or abusive situation in a previous relationship.

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After leaving her own abusive situation and getting herself to safety, there is a certain inevitability that Rosie is now speaking up for dogs through her writing. But listening to dogs extends far beyond managing the more challenging situations, and instead can inform and enrich their simple, day to day interactions.

Rosie currently lives with three dogs – Pogo, Daisy and Kuzu – and says, “All three dogs will indicate to me which way they would like to walk. They will also say where they don’t want to go while on a walk by slowing down or speeding up past a certain point, lip licking, looking away, ears down, avoiding walking down a particular road that may lead to an area of concern. There will be reasons for them not wanting to go that way and they’ve learned that I will listen and respect their feelings.

Dogs have the ability to teach us so much

Similarly, when my dogs become agitated, they may begin jumping up, chewing on the lead, turning away, scratching, yawning, or shaking themselves (when dry, not wet) I understand I need to change their immediate environment as soon as possible and in a calm way, alter what I am doing or gently moving away with them. They need to be listened to, at that particular moment and these are just a few of the ways that they try to communicate.”

Dogs have the ability to teach us so much. As we learn to listen to their needs, we can get in touch with our own animal nature, and as we create a place of safety for them, we can also start to listen and respond to their needs, wants, likes and dislikes.

The Tale of a Big Dog – Rosie’s latest book – is available to buy directly from her website.

This is a guest post by Ann Lowe. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk

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