When it comes to human-canine communication it’s all about body language. That’s why it’s not just important to know what your dog is saying to you, you also need to know what your actions are saying to your dog.
It’s a two-way affair and knowing your dog’s language can be the linchpin to unleashing their real ability. This can make the training experience immensely enjoyable and a winning solution for both of you.
There are many situations that can block a dog from learning and usually they will give you signals to tell you what their emotional state is, but you have to know your dog well enough to register this. Learning to read the language of dogs does require some underpinning knowledge plus good experience of observing them. (If you are interested, there is an excellent online learning course at: www.learntotalkdog.com)
Most owners think they know their dog really well but how many see the whole script? A dog showing social signals to express a friendly greeting with their owner will use their entire body; the position of their forehead, ears, eyes, mouth and tail – all work simultaneously. A dog’s tail whilst wagging horizontally, will often drop very slightly on greeting. The way a dog holds its body gives clear indicators about just how they’re feeling but one action alone isn’t enough, it’s the entire body and facial expression that is ‘speaking’.
But what about humans, what are we saying to our dogs? In the same manner dogs use body language to communicate with other dogs and us, dogs learn to read humans; yes, our every nuance! They also use the information they have learned about us in particular environments, to predict our actions.
So when human-canine communication is good, training can be made easier and more accessible and as this improves and becomes finely tuned, the trainer and dog can accelerate to another level.
The starting point is to know what you want to teach your dog and set about doing just that. Take jumping up for example: saying ‘get down’ and physically pushing a dog away, is giving all the signs that you want to interact with them, at the very point when they are doing something you don’t want them to do. It’s a mixed message and confusing for any dog to understand what’s expected. By giving no attention to this act, or redirecting it altogether, a dog won’t get the opportunity to repeatedly practice the unwanted behaviour. By praising the dog at the time with they have their paws on the ground, they learn what is expected from them.
That’s why learning to talk dog is essential for every dog enthusiast but knowing what you are saying to your dog by your body language can make all the difference to your relationship and achievements together.
Founder, Director & Dog Trainer
Dogknows Dog Care & Training
If you have any concerns about your dog’s behaviour please seek professional advice prior to introducing any changes to their routine, either from a pet behaviorist: www.apbc.co.uk or trainer: www.apdt.co.uk