Training Tuesday: Communicating with your Dog
Communicating with your Dog: Stop Talking
by Andy Sands, Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant
Welcome back to Training Tuesday, Suncoast! For the last several weeks we have been discussing the most effective ways to communicate with your dog. It all started with a request to stop talking. The most effective methods of communication when it comes to your dog involve hand signals, facial expressions, and body language. Once we have mastered the non-verbal communication, we can then move on to verbal communication, specifically, tone of voice.
The intent is not to stop speaking entirely, but instead, to limit verbal communication, and put more emphasis on how words are used. Over the years, dogs have learned to read the tone in our voice. They have become experts at picking up on tension, pleasure, anxiety, or any other emotion from us, based on the tone in our voice. The words you are saying are not important, but the way that you are saying them is. In other words, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. 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.
Last week, I gave the example of walking with your dog, and being approached by another dog or person that you may find frightening. In the example, I discussed the proper body language to use. In addition to the body language, the proper tone of voice can signal different responses from your dog. In my Advanced Meet & Greet Class, intended for dogs with aggressive dispositions towards others, I coach owners on how to “leash manage” their dogs and how to properly respond when approaching others. It is important to have confidence in your body language, but also in your voice. You must stay upbeat and happy when you encounter another dog, even if there is an indication of animosity. The upbeat “happy voice” will reduce tension and avoid signaling fear.
A few weeks ago, I discussed using facial expressions effectively with your dog. I called the expressions the “happy face” or the “evil eye.” While these expressions are effective by themselves, they are doubly effective with the proper tone of voice accompanying them. The “happy face” along with the “happy voice” for a job well done gets the message across that the behavior should be repeated because “mama is happy.” In addition, the “evil eye” with the deep disapproving tone will also send a clear message of you being unhappy with what just happened. Again, the words are not as important, you can speak German or Spanish if you want, it’s all about the tone used.
Come back next week and we will summarize everything we’ve learned, in order to help you have the most effective communication you can with your fur baby. See you next week on Training Tuesday.