At home, your pup is cheerful, confident, and into everything. But when you introduce her to a group of dogs, she begins to yawn and scratch. Is she itchy? Too tired? More than likely you have a “cautious pup” and she was feeling uncertain, so she sent an “include me out” signal to other dogs. It’s unclear as to if other dogs pick up this body language as when we observe a human shift in their seat constantly, or also yawns incessantly.
***Yawning or scratching are exclusive actions: they don’t imply any invitation to another dog to join in or to investigate***
Some pups will overcome the nerves, and others will just bounce right along. But if your pup has not gotten to interact much with other dogs, they may become overwhelmed. If this is the case, it may be good to go back and start with meeting one dog, then two, then more—in a slower progression. If you know a particularly confident dog or puppy that is tolerant of other dogs and puppies, arrange a play date of gentle play to increase your puppy’s confidence, which will make a room full of dogs (or a show site full of dogs–or a puppy class) less intimidating.
SPECIES WATCH: Many animals will behave this way which resembles grooming when uncomfortable. If you’ve ever come upon a bird and get too close you may notice it starts to clean itself exaggeratedly, preening, and repeatedly wiping its bill. Most domestic cat owners will attest to the ‘cat mantra’ with this when feeling uncomfortable or under pressure: if in doubt, wash.