Training Tuesdays – Communicating with your Dog: Stop Talking
Communicating with your Dog: Stop Talking
by Andy Sands, Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant
Learn to Speak Dog
Happy Training Tuesday, Suncoast! Last week we began the series “Communicating with your Dog.” Rule #1, stop talking. How in the world are we supposed to communicate with our dogs if we are not talking to them? Through this series we will discuss all of the ways that dogs communicate, and how we can help them understand us better. And yes, some of that does include talking, so don’t worry.
There are plenty of other ways to get your message across that your dog will understand. Certainly the intent is not to stop speaking entirely, but instead, to limit verbal communication, and put more emphasis on how words are used. This is particularly true when trying to get your dog’s attention, or asking your dog to do something specific. By choosing the right words, adjusting the tone, pitch or volume of those words, or even better, by using sounds instead of words, you are communicating more effectively with your dog. In addition, incorporating other modes of communication, such as, hand signals, facial expressions, and body language will be more meaningful to your dog than any words you ever say.
In her fantastic book, The Other End of the Leash, Patricia McConnell refers to the wide variety of ways that dogs communicate with each other. If we understand these methods of communication we will be much better able to get through to our dogs. Dogs are instinctively conditioned to read non-verbal cues and are “tuned in” to us in ways that we are not aware of. We are verbal, with a side of visual; dogs are visual, with a side of verbal.
This brings us to hand signals. Dogs love them and respond infinitely better to hand signals than anything else. If you think about it, there are many, many ways to say a word. Change the tone, pitch and volume, and “sit” can be said in countless ways. Since we already know that dogs are interpreting our non-verbal cues we might as well put this knowledge to good use. As long as you are able to be consistent, there is little variation, if any, with hand signals. To dogs, the hand signal, or visual cue, is a breath of fresh air. “Ah, ha! Now, I understand what this human wants me to do!” Each “command” should be accompanied by hand signal. This will help the dog learn, and it’s also fun to show your friends how your dog responds by a hand signal, even without you saying a word.
Come back next week, and we will start discussing ways to use our facial expressions to help us have a more meaningful “conversation” with our fur babies. Following that we will discuss body language. See you next Training Tuesday.