Communication with Your Dog

It is no secret that dogs cannot verbally communicate as we do. Yet dogs have their own language, using whines, barks and body movements to communicate with their owners and with each other. After a period of time you learn the language of your pet, or a friend’s dog, just as you would the non-verbal communication of a human friend.

Dogs are experts at non-verbal communication, and studying a dog for more than a few minutes is enough time to assess what exactly is going on in that dog’s mind. Animal behaviorists have pegged a few behaviors as being relatively consistent with some human behaviors and their meanings – licking as a kiss, tail wagging as excitement or happiness, whining as a request for something, etc. Every dog is unique, however, and this must be taken into consideration when approaching or meeting a strange dog for the first time. Dogs are actually quite simple creatures, and signs of fear or aggression can be misinterpreted as playful to the unknowing individual. Caution with strange dogs is strongly advised, even when you have met them before. Learn the signs of an aggressive or fearful dog so you are prepared when or if this scenario occurs.

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With your own dog or a familiar dog, learning body signals and the few vocal sounds they make is quite valuable. Teaching a dog simple one-word commands is the most beneficial, as most family dogs want to make their owners happy but do not understand what is being asked of them. This is a common problem in housetraining. The standard sit-stay-come-lie down commands can be mastered quickly by dogs because their hearing and memory are acute enough to connect the two commands – verbal and action. Dogs will remember the sound of the garage door opening, the refrigerator opening, the doorbell, and will react accordingly due to reinforcement, and pairing with the words “is Dad home?” “hungry?” and “who’s here?” This is similar to teaching a child a passage of music or learning a second language – repetition reinforces the meaning of the action and teaches the dog to mentally connect the two, so communication is easier between both.

Communicating dominance with your dog is essential for peace in the home. A puppy or a new dog to the household will most certainly test the boundaries to see if there is leadership in place. This is noticeable immediately when adding a second dog to the house or when a puppy begins to mature. Behavioral problems can be remedied at this stage by consistent training and reinforcement of your status as the pack leader. Research is plentiful on this topic.

The major communication with your dog should be love. It is also the easiest to show – provide food, clean water, and frequent physical attention. Training and exercise also makes for a happy dog, which in turns makes a happy owner. A little scratch behind the ears never hurt anyone

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