Read what Dr Karin has to say about communicating with your dog!
Often I hear a dog owner say, “If only they could speak!” And then I want to answer: “But they do speak! You’re just not listening!”
We as humans are a verbal species. We would love for our doggy friends to reply in words we can easily understand. But English is a second language for them. Their first language is body talk – a language communication skill in which they generally say (show), quite clearly, exactly what they mean. Our problem is that we as humans tend to mostly listen with our ears, rather than our eyes, and therefore miss so much of what they say.
Your dog talks to you in three specific ways: with behaviour, with body language and by voice. Hone your observational skills to decode your dog’s messages. Then respond with clear signals in order to communicate most effectively. Body language is the bridge to communicating with your dog. The more you learn about your dog’s subtle body language messages, the better you’ll be at reading them – and then also at intervening appropriately. It’s important to not only focus on just one piece of the message. The various parts of a dog’s body work together to tell the complete story; unless you read them all and interpret them in context, you’ll miss important elements. Because dog communication is a constant flow of information, it’s sometimes difficult to pick out small signals until you’ve become an educated observer.
Dogs tell us when they feel stressed. If you are aware of your dog’s stress-related body signals, you can help him in situations that could escalate to unwanted behaviours and aggression. Many dog bites occur because owners fail to recognize and respond to their dogs’ stress signals. There are many other reasons why it’s important to recognise anxiety: stress can impact negatively impact on a dog’s health; dogs learn poorly when stressed; dogs respond poorly to cues when stressed; and negative classical conditioning can occur as a result of stress.
The smart, aware owner or trainer is always on the alert for signs that a dog is stressed, so she can alleviate tension when it occurs. In many cases the intensity of the stressful stimulus can be decreased by increasing the distance between the dog and the stressor, be it a child, another dog, uniforms, men with beards, harsh verbal corrections, shock collars etc. And If possible, the stressor should be removed from the dog’s environment entirely.
For those stressors that can’t be eliminated, a program of conditioning and desensitization can change a dog’s association with a stressor from negative to positive. Another strategy is to teach the dog a new operant response to the stressor – for example, teaching your dog that the scary sound of the telephone means “Run to your bed to get a tasty treat.”
Any observant person knows that dogs also offer a lot of happy communications. Behaviours such as jumping up, pawing, nudging, barking, and mouthing are often about happy excitement and
attention-seeking. Look for the signals that tell you your dog is happy and use these positive influences or behaviours in further training.
Our Online Course – Introduction to Dog Psychology and Training
If you’ve longed to know what’s going on in your dog’s heart and mind, and to communicate back, our course is a good starting point to find ways to connect. Learn to read what your dog is saying to you, and speak to your dog in a language your dog can understand. You will learn about canine psychology, senses, dog training, dog obedience, solving behavioural disorders, and much more.
Our course is suitable for students and dog owners, and anyone wanting to learn more about dogs and their behaviour and training.
Your dog is talking. And he speaks to you all the time. Remember to listen with your eyes.