Effectively Communicating With Your Dog
Effective communication with your dog maintains the pecking order in your home and ensure that you remain the top dog. Allowing your dog to dominate you in any way is unhealthy for your dog (as well as potentially dangerous for you, particularly if you have a big dog).
Failure to understand your dog’s behaviour and how to properly train your dog is the cause of dissatisfaction with their dog. Some people will even give up on their dogs and could even abandon them in some instances. All because they failed to properly communicate and understand their dog. What a terrible tragedy!
Actually, your dog really does communicate with you for much of the time you spend together. So not learning to understand your dog’s body language is similar to living your life with someone who speaks another language, and never learning to communicate with that person by learning any of that other language.
Two way communication with anyone in your life is obviously important, and especially with your dog who does “speak another language”.
Dogs love to play, but their primary concern is often their position in your “pack”. Dogs will always make attempts to get to the top dog position if you allow this to go on.
Some dogs do this as a game to see how much they can get away with, (my Kara is like this). Other dogs can actually take this issue very seriously, and may threaten any “pack” member who doesn’t defer to them – sometimes even including their owner. Large dogs often like to jump up and stand with their front paws on the owner’s shoulders. This can be a friendly gesture, but is often actually a posture of dominance.
A better greeting to encourage your dog to use is to have your dog sit and then for you offer a greeting to your dog. In this way, the dog has assumed a subordinate posture, and you retains your leadership role and your position as the “top dog”. And your dog loves this exchange with you. The important thing is that your dog understands his/her position in the “pack”.
One of the most tragic misinterpretations of body language I’ve heard about involves what’s called the canine grin. Many dogs, when they are happy and excited, pull their lips back in a happy grin, which is actually a submissive gesture. They are simply very happy, but some owners have actually misinterpreted this submissive grin as a snarl and, heaven forbid, a few have even had the dog euthanized because of what they thought was aggression in their dog.
Isn’t this tragic? And all because the owner hasn’t taken the time and trouble to understand what their dog is actually trying to communicate to them.
I’m sure you’re in the category of people who can understand what your dog is saying, just like me.
On a lighter note, I was only talking to a friend recently (also a dog lover – she has four Jack Russell crosses) about how we often know just what our dog is saying. I was telling her how Jet, my Staffie holds her own with other dogs. In fact, it’s a pretty brave dog who will take my Jet on.
Some time ago, when Jet and I were walking past a house in our street where there is a large Japanese Fighting Dog, it escaped and decided to have a domination fight with Jet. I couldn’t believe it, but Jet won!!! (if you don’t know what Japanese Fighting Dogs look like, they’re about four times the size of Jet).
Anyway, ever since then, when we walk past, that dog races to its gate and starts to bark. Then Jet stops, looks directly at the dog, barks non-stop for several seconds and then turns and keeps walking.
I said to Isadora, my friend, that Jet’s saying to the dog: “Now, you listen to me … I thought I got this straightened out with you before - Don’t you mess with me!” Isadora laughed, but understood completely. She commented that people who don’t have dogs would probably think we were mad to think that we know what our dogs are saying!