How to communicate with your dog
Humans and dogs have lived side by side over thousands of years, and our genomes have even evolved together. Humans also altered the appearance and behavior of domestic dogs the world over. One of the primary reasons our epic canine-human love affaire has gone on so long is because of our innate ability to communicate with dogs. Our communication can easily become confused even though dog-human interspecies understanding is high. It can make all the difference in preventing frustration for you both if you take the time to figure out effective strategies for getting your point across to your dog.
Below are some guide to increase your verbal, physical and on-leash communication skills with your dog.
Communicating through voice with your dog
Dogs are capable of understanding what you say even though they may not be capable of speaking. A dog is capable of learning around 165 words – and even more with intensive training – according to canine behaviorist Dr. Stanley Coren. And it is not just the words they are picking up on, but also the tone on how you say them.
No matter the age of the speaker, sweet sounding, high-pitched or excited tones are always more effective at getting a dog’s attention rather than low, booming or quiet voices.
Yelling or raising you voice at your dog also means communication, but not one that is likely to get your point across well. Yelling at your dog and telling them “No!” when you’re upset with your dog’s behavior may interrupt what they’re doing but is unlikely to change that behavior for the better. Because we use “No!” in such a variety of contexts, it won’t always give the dog the information he needs to change his behavior and most of the time it doesn’t even tell him what he did wrong. So next time you think of yelling at your dog or telling them “No!”, tell them what alternative behavior you would prefer instead.
For example, when your dog jumps on you to say “hello”, say “Sit!” instead. And that only ever means one thing – put your butt on the ground. On this case, you are letting your dog know that you don’t like the jumping behavior and sitting would solve that problem.
Same goes when your dog is nosing around too close to the food on your plate, say “Leave it!” and this only ever has one meaning – to move away from that desirable object. By doing so, it informs your dog how to change their behavior from something you don’t like, to something that you do.
Communication though body language with your dog
Dogs primary form of communication is through their bodies since they are not capable of speech. Ears, eyes, mouth, tails and the carriage of the body all have something to say about your dog’s emotional state. Our bodies can also effectively communicate concepts to our dogs that can become lost in translation when spoken. In fact, most dog trainers first teach many basic cues like “sit” and “down” using a hand signal instead of a verbal cue.
Your dog’s body and your body have completely different lived experiences, which can cause trouble with communicating via body language. Identifying the difference between negative, positive and somewhere-in-between emotions in the position of your dog’s tail can be a challenge since you probably don’t have one.
Communication through the leash
One of the most powerful tools of dog-human communication is probably the leash. As we all know, dogs are master of reading our emotions, and leash is like a direct conduit between our brains and bodies to theirs. For example, you will likely tighten up on your leash (shortening the distance between your hand and your dog) if you’re tense of under stress. And you will likely hold the leash more loosely if you’re feeling carefree. Your pace might slow if you have time for a leisurely walk, or you may tug the leash more frequently when your dog stops to sniff if you’re in a rush.
Their response to situations and environments, like in a park or a busy sidewalk is, in part, dictated by you because you are constantly communicating with your dog via speed, pattern of movement and tension while on a walk with a leash.
Confidence, reassurance in your body language and leash handling helps your dog to feel more confident and reassured in potentially scary situations.
How do you communicate with your dog?
All dogs are different, individual quirks and history can affect their preferences.You’ll be amazed by the result if you show your dog how you want them to behave in the language they understand.