6 Steps To Have a Better Communication with Your Dogs

6 Steps To Have a Better Communication with Your Dogs

Have you ever tried to connect with your dog and you end up frustrated about their language? Yes, We all have in a certain time, but to communicate with your dogs you need to learn some basics like what they mean by their actions and by doing this you will be able to provide them with what they want.

So Let’s start with those six steps that will give you the ability to connect with your dog as much as possible.

1-Learn their language.

Dogs communicate using body postures, facial expressions, and vocalizations.

When you first start to build your observational skills, it can be helpful to look at each body part individually. 

But ultimately, you’ll have to look at the entire dog and the situation to be able to accurately understand what is being communicated.

For example, consider the growl. The growl can be a threatening warning behavior or it can be a vocalization between playing dogs.

You have to know the context and look at the other parts of the body to interpret what that growl is truly saying.

If the dog is stiff and tense, standing tall with shoulders high, hackles (the hair along the back) raised, staring intently at the approaching person, that growl is probably a warning threat.

If the dog is at the park romping around, his body relaxed and his tail wagging, and if he growls as he starts wrestling with another dog, that growl is probably playful.

2- Listen with our eyes

Michele Wan, PhD, and her colleagues recently showed videos of dogs to some human study participants.

After each video, they gave the participants a little test, asking questions about the body postures and behaviors of the dogs they’d just viewed.

Not too surprisingly, the participants scored best on recalling the dogs’ vocalizations (growling and barking) but didn’t score so well at recalling the dogs’ body postures (tail position, ear carriage, and so on).

This is probably because humans are primarily verbal communicators, so sounds are what we listen to and recall best.

When we are communicating with primarily nonverbal animals like dogs, we can miss a lot of important information if we don’t learn to listen with our eyes.

Make an effort to observe your dog; if you see signs of anxiety, distress, or threatening behavior, as described in the chart on the previous page, step back and consider how you can avoid further escalating the situation.

3- Use cues that work for dogs.

How can we best get our messages across to dogs? Since dogs are primarily nonverbal communicators, it makes sense that dogs respond better to visual cues than to verbal cues.

In other words, dogs respond more readily to what we do and how we act rather than to what we say.

In one study, researchers taught dogs two new signals for two specific actions. Each action was taught with both a word and a hand signal, given simultaneously.

When the dogs had learned the signals, the researchers tested them on their response rates when given just the word or just the hand signal.

The dogs were more successful at responding to the hand signal than to the word. Then the researchers really tested the dogs: they gave the hand signal for one of the actions along with the verbal prompt for the other action. As you might have guessed, they responded to the hand signal.

Dogs can pick up the tone of our voices and they can certainly learn specific words.

(Do you have to spell out t-r-e-a-t or w-a-l-k so your dog doesn’t run to the treat jar or to the door?) But visual cues are easier to teach and can trump verbal cues.

So when you are teaching your dog a new skill, remember that your body language may be your best tool for a successful lesson—or the reason for failure!

4- Avoid miscommunication traps.

A normal human-to-human greeting involves direct eye contact, reaching physically toward each other for a handshake or a hug, and no sniffing.Not only are those human actions impolite in a dog greeting, they are downright threatening especially when you add in the leaning and reaching over the head that most of us do to dogs because we’re taller than they are.

The respectful way to greet a dog is no direct eye contact and no reaching out or over the dog. Instead, give the dog a chance to sniff you before engaging in direct physical or visual contact.

When reading a dog, focusing merely on the tail can prove to be misleading because the message can be quite ambiguous. Consider two dogs, same breed, same yard, peering over a fence at the same neighbor.

Both dogs’ tails are wagging, but one has her tail raised, fairly stiff, and moving slowly side to side. The other has his tail mostly horizontal and wagging freely. Both tails are wagging. But are they saying the same thing?

Remember, a wagging tail only means “I want to interact with you.” To get the answer about how each individual dog wants to interact, look at the opposite end of the dog. In the first dog you notice a fairly fixed, intent stare with ears perked up and forward. Her lips are very tightly closed, exposing only a small amount of the front teeth. 

The second dog holds his ears in a natural, relaxed position, and his mouth is wide open, tongue lazily protruding. The intent here is clearly different: The first dog is more likely to show an aggressive response than the second one, who is more likely to engage in a friendly interaction.

In the end, always believe the message being sent by the whole dog. While the information being projected from the front end of the dog can carry the most weight in deciphering his intention, remember that a dog’s attitude at any given time is best understood by considering the sum of the body parts.

5- Teach a common language.

Because of our physical limitations, people will never be able to “speak dog” and dogs will never be able to speak our verbal language. Therefore, we need to develop a language to help us communicate effectively with our dogs.

That language is called training. Various methods are used to train dogs, but evidence shows that the most effective way is to reward the behaviors we consider desirable. This concept is called “positive reinforcement.” It’s not only more humane than using punishment, it’s also more effective.

Once this training language is established, you will be able to communicate and guide your dog and navigate the world together successfully.

6- Have realistic expectations.

Let’s face it: We’re not all created equal. Consider the record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. Certainly, hard work contributed to his success, but he also happens to have the perfect build for a swimmer, with a long torso and long arms.

Sometimes our abilities are genetic, such as Phelps’s body type, and sometimes they are a consequence of the opportunities we’ve had.

If Michael Phelps had grown up without access to a swimming pool, he probably wouldn’t have won eighteen gold medals.The same is true for dogs perhaps even more so because the various breeds were developed to have specific body types and to perform specific jobs.

A team of English Bulldogs will never successfully pull a sled in the Iditarod. That is an unrealistic expectation, given their physical abilities and behavioral attributes.

A team of Greyhounds would also fail, because although they can run fast, they don’t have the physical build to pull a sled; they’re built for sprinting, not stamina. And they don’t have a warm double coat to withstand the cold. But several teams of Huskies complete this challenging race each year and seem to enjoy it.

That’s because they have the endurance and physical characteristics to handle the cold and distance and they are doing what they were bred to do.

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