Tails Up!

Tails Up!

Author: The Rev. Dr. David L. Bridges, Priest
May 06, 2020

You may have noticed the “ritual” involved with two or more dogs meeting for the first time. Of course there is the obligatory butt-sniffing (which has a scientific purpose, look it up), but long before that is the first impression response.

Some dogs assume other dogs are friendly, and some dogs automatically go into attack-mode. At this first-meeting, there is body language and a “testing” of the situation. When a dog is in attack-mode, the tail will be tucked down and under (an obvious protective response); the same goes for a dog that is frightened or running away, hence the expression, “like a dog with its tail between its legs.”

When a dog is in the friendship-mode, the tail will be up. If the dog is very happy and confident, the tail will be way-up and wagging, unless the other dog becomes aggressive. The attitude of either dog can change in an instant based on factors we may not notice.

Often, a dominant dog can simply stare-down another dog or intimidate the other by snarling just the slightest bit. The dominant dog often doesn’t need to growl as long as the snarl is seen and understood. Some very passive dogs will drop to the ground at the sight of the slightest snarl.

The best-case-scenario for two dogs meeting is when both are confident in themselves and open to new relationships. That is when you will see both tails up and wagging, and no snarling. However, it doesn’t always work that way. Some dogs are bit more difficult to meet.

I guess we humans are much the same (minus the butt-sniffing part). When we meet new people, we are “testing” to see if we are safe. When we are confident in ourselves and open to new relationships, we give the “appearance” of a welcoming spirit. But, when we snarl we send the opposite message.

First impressions are so important in relationships that it is worth spending some time developing our interpersonal skills. Remember the old expression, “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.” (Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31) How about that line from the movie Bambi: “If you can’t say nothin’ good, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

A smile is to humans as an upward, wagging tail is to dogs. When someone sees you smile, they are more at-ease and open to meeting you. When someone sees you snarl, well, you know. Here is my challenge to you for this summer: Even when socially distanced, smile more than you snarl, sing more than you bark, and keep your tail up!


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