Communication: A Dog’s Way
by Joe Law
6 June 2012
only dogs could understand a humans’ language. If only dogs in return
could speak our language then TRAINING would be so much
It just does not work that way!
many times have dog owners spoken to their dogs in humans’ everyday
language and then waited to see how the dog responds only to be
disappointed and even frustrated with the outcome. Again, it just does not
work that way! A dog communicates with its eyes and its body language.
When dogs communicate with each other they observe each other’s body
postures and all the body movements while vocal noise, if any, probably
being used to express an emotion. Similarly, when relating to humans a
dog will carefully observe the humans body language in an attempt to
understand the human’s intentions and then respond accordingly.
a dog has bonded with a human that it has learnt to trust it will
observe intently that human’s body language in an attempt to respond to
the messages being transmitted. Trainers, aware of the situation, will
pay careful attention to their own body language to convey desired
messages to the dog. Fancy words might impress other humans
will mean very little if anything to their canine companion.
are sometimes amazed and even suspect that their dog has some kind of
extra sensory perception because it appears to know what they are
thinking and what they are about to do next when all that is happening
is that the dog has been observing their every move and combined with
previous experience is able to predict and anticipate what is about to
follow. Good dog trainers are acutely aware of the process and often
remain quiet while concentrating on their own body language to convey
the desired messages. Some experienced dog trainers will advise dog
owners to try and shut their mouths completely and only use carefully
thought out body signals to convey information to the dog.
even claim surprising results when this happens. On the other hand,
constantly nagging at a dog usually only confuses the situation for the
dog and results in frustration for the handler.
Words that are
used in training should be short and crisp and not repeated. The idea
is to associate the word with an immediate response that can be
controlled. For example if the word “Here” is used to call the dog the
response needs to be immediate which means the trainer has to make it
happen if necessary by having the dog on a lead and giving a sharp tug.
When the correct response is offered by the dog without the need for
enforcement then the word “Good” used and delivered in an upbeat
fashion will convey your pleasure. Reward for a correct response is
always appropriate while the word “No” delivered in a low and harsher
tone will let the dog know it has done the wrong thing. In good
retriever training, because of the dog’s natural desire to retrieve,
training can be carefully constructed so that the retrieve itself is
used as a high value reward for carrying out other exercises correctly.
Photo by Lara Sedgmen
This is an edited
version of an article that first appeared in the September 2012 issue
page is provided by Working Gundog Club Inc.
(Affiliated with Dogs NSW)