Expressing to Lead: How to Communicate With Your Dog, Part 2


How would you like to succeed in training your dog by naturally communicating with it through nonverbal language?


Dog owners have one big collective dream: to one day see that their dogs have become well-behaved, intelligent and responsive animals that are capable of understanding and carrying out important commands.


We humans have an innate need to be understood by everyone – even our pets. That’s why dog owners speak to their pets even though they know the animals can’t really understand what they’re saying.


If you want your pet to understand you, it has to be trained formally. Before you can successfully train your dog, you have to first learn how to communicate with it.


Today’s post will expand upon the concept of effective animal communication through nonverbal communication. Dogs can learn to recognize words (chiefly through how they sound) but there has to be consistency in how and when words are spoken. We will cover these essential details below.


How can you improve your dog’s recall of important skills and commands?


You can begin improving your dog’s learning proficiency by developing your own skills at communicating with animals. Here are some additional guidelines that will help you overcome training hurdles while training your dog:


  1. Send a Clear Signal Every Time


One of the challenges of formal training is that you have to carefully plan each behavioral pattern and you have to make an effort to be consistent with your plan every time you interact with your dog.


For example, if you are training your dog to “sit and stay” when your whole family is seated at the dining room table, you have to enforce the rule at every opportunity.


If you commanded your dog to keep away from the dining table on Monday, you can’t let it whine and beg for table scraps on Tuesday and Wednesday. As a trainer, there has to be consistency with what you demand from the dog and the way you enforce the rules of the pack.


  1. Avoid Negative Body Signals


How do dogs react to negative body signals?


Dogs have no way of understanding the meaning of our verbal language so they rely on our vocal expressions (how we speak to them) and our body language (nonverbal signals).


When training your dog, be careful of your gestures and facial expressions as these can influence your dog’s response.


Your body language, including your upper body gestures and facial expressions have to be consistently positive when your dog is doing something correctly and neutral if your pet needs to be corrected. Your body language has to be neutral when redirecting or correcting your dog so as to avoid creating a negative learning loop.


It’s very easy to fall back to old practices such as yelling or reprimanding a dog if you allow your body language to express anger or annoyance. Do your best to remain neutral and focus on correcting the actual behavior instead of expressing your frustration at the dog.


Dogs cannot understand the full context of situations the way people do.


All dogs are capable of is responding to the most current stimuli available. There is no way for your dog to understand that you are tired or hungry. All it sees and understands is that you are becoming very hostile and the natural response to hostility is either “fight or flight.”


III. Match and Pace Your Dog


What is matching and pacing?


Like human leaders, alpha dogs try to lead their pack by example.


Your dog is capable of emulating and matching your emotional projection and energy level. If you’re sad or depressed, your dog can exhibit the same mental and emotional states. If you’re extremely happy at something, your dog can sense this and its state of mind can also change almost instantly.


You can use a dog’s natural talent at emulating their owner’s emotions and body language by matching and pacing your pet whenever you can. Matching and pacing is a subtle way of regulating your dog’s energy level and emotions when you are formally training your pet.


For example, if your dog is very excited at something, you can match your pet’s energy level for a few minutes and you can begin winding it down so your dog will follow suit. It takes a lot of practice to master this technique but once you do, your body language can easily trigger appropriate responses from your dog during training.

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