Training Tuesday: Communicating with your Dog: Stop Talking
Communicating with your Dog: Stop Talking
by Andy Sands, Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant
Evil Eye or Happy Face
Welcome back to Training Tuesday Suncoast! We’ve been discussing ways to help us better communicate with our dogs. Things like facial expressions and body language, in conjunction with hand signals go a long way in getting through to our dogs. Last week we discussed how hand signals can be effective. Let’s continue on, with specific ways that facial expressions can help us communicate with our canine companions.
With keen powers of observation, dogs have learned to read our facial expressions and body language, which is exactly what they do with each other. One little flick of the ear from one dog to the other can mean something, and we wouldn’t even notice it. When a dog looks “guilty” for “messing” in the house, it’s not really guilt you see. That is a more complex emotion reserved for humans. The dog, is instead, reacting to your emotions; disappointment, anger, frustration. The opposite is also true. Dogs know when we are happy by observing our facial expressions and body language.
This knowledge helps explain why a simple facial expression from you can tell your dog, quite clearly, when you are pleased with or unhappy with something he has done. As an example, a great remedy for a teething puppy who is unintentionally inflicting pain on us by play biting, is to yell “OUCH,” in order to interrupt the behavior, but then to follow that up with a grimace, or “evil eye.” The grimace tells the dog you are unhappy with the behavior that just happened. The “OUCH” simply interrupted the dog, by being a distraction; the powerful communication tool is the “evil eye.”
Some people have a hard time giving their dog a grimace without laughing, especially when it comes to puppies, because, after all, they’re being so cute. In reality, they are not being cute, and are, in fact, being naughty. If you want the behavior to improve, and not worsen, it is important for you to communicate clearly in terms the puppy understands. On the other hand, when your dog is doing something you are pleased with, like “sit” or “stay” or “high-five,” you would give a “happy face” showing you are pleased with the behavior. This comes more naturally, of course, however, looks of pleasure and displeasure are equally important.
Next week we will dive into body language and how it plays an important role in communicating with our dogs. Remember, body language is how dogs communicate with each other, and they are keen observers of it. Come back next Training Tuesday. I look forward to seeing you then.