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Do you ever wish you could understand your dog better? Or that they’d give you some visual cues about how certain things or activities make them feel? Well, now you can! Doggie Language, the forthcoming book out 10/6 from artist and dog illustrator Lili Chin, perfectly illustrates all of the subtle ways dogs communicate with us, through tail wags, posture, and even eye movement.
It all started with a little Boston Terrier
After moving to the United States from Sydney in 2000 to design characters for a children’s TV show, Chin adopted Boogie, her blue-eyed Boston Terrier. Soon after adopting Boogie, Chin realized he had some behavioral problems, which “is how I became interested in dog behavior and got to work as an illustrator for dog training professionals,” Chin said, over a recent email exchange with Rover.
You may recognize Chin’s Doggie Language illustrations, featuring Boogie. Her artwork has been used as educational resources, teaching materials, on posters and as PSAs, and in many other forms by veterinarians, trainers, and other pet professionals for years, to help people better understand dog body language and become better dog caretakers. In addition to those illustrations, Chin also illustrates custom pet portraits, designs greeting cards, creates images for marketing agencies, and can draw lots of other animals, too!
From illustrations to a book
The inspiration for Chin’s new book—her first—was to expand the representation of dogs usually seen on her posters in a handy reference guide. The idea was to “feature all-new illustrations with as many different types of dogs as possible,” said Chin. Although her Boston Terrier Boogie generally makes a great model, she said, “he has no tail! So this multi-dog book is a great opportunity for me to illustrate more dog body language information that I can’t do with a tail-less dog.”
It’s not only dog breeds and types that were included, but the book also examines certain distinctive features of dogs, such as floppy ears and fluffy tails, and what it means when they change in appearance. There’s also a section on “seeing the differences between very similar looking behaviors. Not all wagging tails mean the same thing. Neither do all ‘smiles’ or ‘kisses,’” said Chin.
Making pet parents more aware
While we may feel like we know our dogs inside and out, it’s important for pet parents to stay attuned to the signs their dog may show in different environments. And to properly capture the many nuances of dog expressions, Chin, who is not a dog trainer herself, works closely with many dog experts and dog behavior educators to get it just right. For this book, Chin worked with Marjie Alonso, the Executive Director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), Kellie Sisson Snider, the Director of Behavior Services at Humane Animal Rescue and a professional dog behavior consultant specializing in the rehabilitation of “aggressive dogs,” and Dr. Sarah Byosiere, the Director of the Thinking Dog Center at Hunter College (CUNY). S
When asked about the biggest thing she hopes readers will take away from Doggie Language, Chin said it’s “knowing that pet parents can tell how their dogs are feeling by looking at them. A dog doesn’t have to vocalize or make big movements to be communicating how they are feeling.”
She also hopes this book will “make people more curious about dog communication and be more observant of how their dog’s body language would change in relation to what is happening around them, or to how we behave.”
In the end, as Chin writes in the forward, “by learning dog body language, we can become more responsible guardians and caregivers. We can avoid causing harm to our companion animals and know when they need help.
“I truly believe that the more we understand what we are seeing, the more we will learn to see, and the more we practice and observe ‘listening’ to our best friends, the better we will be able to help them feel safe, confident, and happy.”