March 18, 2019
Have you ever thought about what language your dog speaks? The most common answer is barking! Barking is a form of communication, but actually, dogs primarily communicate with one another using body language.
Body language is how they communicate with us, each other, and how they miraculously “know” when we are about to do something. Really, it’s not a miracle at all, dogs are just amazing observers of our body language as well as the body language of other dogs. Dogs are very adept at reading non-verbal cues like posture, sounds, and other physical movements. In fact, researchers estimate that 70 to 90 percent of human communication is non-verbal, so your dog knows a lot about how you are feeling before you ever open your mouth. Since dogs are better at reading these cues than humans, your dog might even know more about you based on your body language than other members of your household.
Many times, our dogs know our patterns better than we do. You may have noticed that your dog seems to always be following a schedule. For example, does your dog seem to wake you up at the same time every morning or get ready for dinner at the same time each evening? Good communication with your pet is critical to building a strong, trusting, and long-lasting relationship.
Think of the frustration your dog may feel when he is doing his best to tell you how he feels or what he needs. Humans talk and move around a lot! It can be very confusing for your dog! This goes to show you just how awesome and resilient dogs are despite the communication gap.
The best way to learn to communicate with your dog is through positive reinforcement training with a certified trainer. Positive training not only provides a chance to learn great communication skills for both you and your dog, it also gives you the chance to provide much needed mental stimulation for your dog. This type of training is important for a new puppy, a middle-aged dog, or a senior dog. Age doesn’t change what language you speak, and it’s never too late for you and your dog to learn how to best communicate with one another.
We often ask dogs to do things we have never even taught them. When we get a slow response, or no response at all, our tendency then is to repeat the command louder. Maybe we even get emphatic with our finger pointing and saying, “NOO!!” Believe it or not, “NO!” is not a behavior. Teaching our dogs what we want instead makes this a conversation that both human and dogs can feel comfortable and clear about.
Most people never think about what communications happen when walking their dog. Your leash is also a form of communication. Put your phone in your pocket and enjoy giving your dog this time connecting with the environment and you. Your trainer can help with leash skills that make your walk more enjoyable.
So, where do you start? If you would like a recommendation for a pet trainer, give us a call! If the trainer you are talking to mentions dominance, teaching the dog who is the boss, or suggests any other form of aversive training, RUN! A good trainer should never use harsh punishment for teaching. This does not mean you are never going to say no to your dog or let him run wild in the house, but working with a trainer to teach your dog how to be a member of the family with clear communication and understanding makes having a pet joyous.
Dogs are always learning, and if we learn how to talk to them, imagine the possibilities. Always focus on learning how to effectively communicate with your dog in a manner that builds your bond with one another.
To get started with a trainer, contact the Animal Behavior Clinic of AERA today at 862-702-3738.