Challenge for the day: Don’t talk to your dog today.
Instead, talk only with your body language and see what happens. You’ll find out how much you chatter to your dog, meaningless words and wonder why she tunes you out. A surprise may be that your dog pays closer attention because she’ll have to rely on your body language (her first language). This is the tip of the iceberg in training. If you aren’t aware of your own body language and energy around dogs you will have very little idea what kind of training your dog needs. Your dog is responding to your body language first, secondarily the words coming out of your mouth. I love this cartoon because it speaks brilliantly to how we relate to dogs. We are relating to a different species entirely yet we are relating to them as if they are human.
This is why trainers have jobs, people get bitten, dogs don’t pay attention to you, they are destructive, they play chase when you are trying to call them to you and the list goes on. It’s a total disconnect without this awareness.
Let’s dissect this cartoon. Our friend with the glasses is clearly in a reactive state; pointing fingers, yelling, bending over/leaning forward, big energy. The dog is sitting there trying to figure out what this man is saying. Is this dog just sitting there calmly listening to his owner letting it blow over his head, tuning him out? If you said YES, you are wrong. Everything in this dogs’ body language is saying “I”m stressed” Direct eye contact, alert forward ears, closed mouth, wondering whether to flea or retreat, but by no means calm and relaxed. If the dog did something offensive to the owner like take a sock or not come when called and this is the reaction of it’s owner don’t you think the dog may not want to ever come when called or try to make a game out of getting the sock to perhaps change the tone of the owner and get a game of chase going? Dogs do things to engage us and if we don’t know who we are being or how to read a dog’s language, we’ll have little success with a healthy relationship with our dog.
Okay, if you can’t do it for a whole day try using body language for 2 hrs while you’re interacting with your dog. If you find yourself in his face to get his attention then you’re a prime example of a dog who has learned to tune you out.
Pay attention to these things and let us know how you did.
What is your facial expression when interacting with your dog?
Is it hard not to talk?
Do you have big energy?
Is your energy relaxed and calm?
Are you reactive?
What did you notice in your dog?
Do you use your hands a lot or a little?
When you ask your dog to do something what is your body doing? What position are you in when asking your dog to COME to you?
When walking on the leash, how are you holding the leash?
What do you do when you see a dog approaching while walking on the leash?
What do you do when you stop to speak to a neighbor?
What is your dog doing when you stop to speak to a neighbor?
What else did you observe about using your own body language with your dog?
Relying simply on your body language should prompt a whole slew of awarenesses you had no idea about yourself in relating to your dog. This awareness could raise the bar to the connection you have with your dog because you are now actually whispering/speaking in a language your dog can understand.
It’s not magic, it’s awareness and understanding.
Once you’ve become more aware of who you’re being, try this. As you begin to speak to your dog, whisper. Literally, whisper the cues/commands you are asking for, along with a hand signal for the command and see how much more attentive your dog will be to you. This takes practice.
Learning to understand body language, yours and your dogs can be the connection you’ve longed for and will be life changing.