How to Look at Your Dog

Black German Shepherd named Jagger for "How to Look at Your Dog"
Pulwarty, Simone. “Jagger”. 2020. Electronic image. Ryerson University. From the exhibit “How to Look at Your Dog”.

© Copyright 2020 Simone Pulwarty Ryerson University.

       If you were to ask any person what comes to mind when they think of a canine, he or she would give the typical response, ‘a man’s best friend’. For this reason, many see a dog’s main purpose as sticking to its master’s side no matter what. However, how often do we stop and really observe these canines? 

       I see my dog, Jagger, in a special yet biased way, with much love and adoration. As a dog owner, I forever wonder, what is he thinking? How does his mind function? What is his facial expression conveying to me? Does he adore me as much as I adore him or does he think I have a treat to give him? 

       A human face typically gives away what he or she is thinking and feeling but in the case of canines, it is their ears. His ears stand up straight, as if they are at attention. This means that he is constantly on alert because as a dog, he cannot stop caring about his owner’s home and safety.

       Veterinarians may look at a dog’s level of shine in his coat as a signifier of its health while the average human may see a dog that they do not own as dangerous. Today, like always, Jagger has tiny grey particles stuck to his face. The average person may say that this gives his age away. The truth is that this is just dry dirt that stuck to his face which only gives away that he was previously rolling around in the grass. This dirt is contrasted by the darkness of his fur. His pitch-dark fur causes him to be perceived as a threat during daylight but he turns invisible in the nighttime. 

       When you look into his eyes, the only phrase that comes to mind is ‘gentle soul’. Looking closer into his eyes, his pupils’ reflection reveal what he is primarily focused on, his human. The reflection shows a sky with a human-shaped silhouette in the corner. His nose that has multiple jagged lines looks like a freshly paved road or a leather shoe. His wet nose is a signature feature of a canine but also tells us that he is using his sense of smell to figure out what his owner is trying to communicate to him, or if his owner has any food on her.

       His head is tilted at an angle which is a gesture that is characteristic of his breed. German Shepherds are known to tilt their head at an obvious angle in an attempt to make sense of what humans are trying to tell them. This is similar to what humans do when we are bewildered. These two gestures connect humans and canines.

       So, the next time you come across canines, stop and try to figure out what they are thinking, feeling and doing. You may be surprised when you realize that all they are trying to do, is the same thing that us humans are trying to do, figure out their own lives.


Works Cited

Elkins, James. “How to Use Your Eyes.” (2000)


Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.