A great deal of stress, for both dogs and humans, is brought about from lack of communication between the two species. By breaking down the barriers of ignorance and replacing them with bridges of understanding many "insurmountable" problems suddenly disappear.
UNDERSTANDING OUR DOGS
Of course, it is impossible to "talk dog", just as it is for dogs to "talk human". However, we can learn to recognise some of the more obvious basic signals that ALL dogs use (called Calming Signals) to communicate with each other, and also with humans.
When we begin to respond to the Calming Signals that our dog use, our dogs will start to relax and trust us, recognising that we will not put them in situations that they are unable to cope with. Here are a few examples -
But Calming Signals are not the only things dog owners should look out for. Begin to get to know and recognise your dog's habits, body movements, and behaviours (see Stress Symptoms) and then you will begin to really understand your dog.
Be PROACTIVE rather than REACTIVE
Assess potentially stressful situations and manage them before they cause stress to your dog. Your dog will recognise that you are helping him to cope with the difficult things in his life and will begin to trust your judgment more. He will gradually be able to cope with more stressful situations, certain in the knowledge that if he can't cope you will protect him by offering a safe escape route.
One of the most important lessons to remember about dog communication is -
Do not "humanise" your dog -
its brain is very different from ours.
DOGS UNDERSTANDING US
Communication works both ways - dogs require a "human dictionary" in order to understand what we expect of them. This "dictionary" is made up of sounds, signals, routines, or chains of behaviour that have been either been REWARDING or UNPLEASANT for the dog.
Sometimes these triggers only have to happen once, particularly if the consequence is very positive or very negative for the dog. However, the majority of a dog's human dictionary is learnt by the
CONSISTENCY OF THE HUMAN
Take the time to make a list of what cues and commands you and your family want to use in order to communicate with your dog. Make sure that everyone uses these cues consistently and does not confuse the dog by changing either the signal or the vocal command.
If used correctly, the clicker is a very powerful and effective cue. This is because the clicker sound is exactly the same each time the dog hears it, and it marks the exact moment that the dog is doing the correct behaviour. However, unless the handler has become adept at clicking at exactly the right moment it can, in fact, become a confusing way of communicating with your dog. To overcome this we recommend reading our Clicker page and learn how to train a human before attempting to clicker train a dog.
This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).
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