In-Home Training for You & Your Dog

Learn to Speak Dog

Aston & Fado
Being successful with dogs is actually quite simple: communicate in THEIR language, rather than ours. Sure, they can learn to associate the sound of the word “sit” with the action of putting their rear on the ground, but they can’t learn the English language. We, on the other hand, CAN learn the language of dogs.

Suppose you travel to a foreign country but you don’t know the language. It’s difficult to order from a menu, to find your way around, and to communicate in general, right? And when speaking to a child, you use simpler words that the child already knows so you’re more easily understood, right? The same principle applies with dogs: communicate with them in their language so you can understand each other.

The language of dogs is about body language, scent, and the energy projected. Knowing how to read these cues and respond accordingly is the basis for successfully working with dogs. And the great thing about it is you don’t have to spend money or take classes to learn any of this. The dogs will teach you all of this for free—simply observe dogs and pay close attention to their way of communicating.

Watch two unleashed dogs meet. While we humans receive very limited information about each other from a distance, dogs already know a lot about one another from far away. Why? Because we’re using our eyes as our primary source of gathering information, but dogs use their noses to ‘see’ the world—in this case, to pick up another dog’s scent. And scent tells a dog a LOT. (Scientific studies estimate that a dog’s sense of smell is anywhere between 200 to 20,000 times stronger than ours—think of it as a dog’s nose being the Hubble Telescope of smell.) Additionally the body language of each dog says a lot, too. One dog may be standing tall with his head held high and his tail stiff, looking straight at the other dog with his mouth slightly open, while the other may have his head low, mouth closed, tail wagging and body slightly sideways to the first dog. All these individual indicators combine to tell us what they’re thinking and how they’re likely to react to one another. (Put those dogs on leashes held by humans, though, and the whole situation can change dramatically…but that’s another topic.)

Dog Park
Go visit a dog park. Just stand outside the fence and watch the dogs interact for a good 30 minutes. Even though those dogs don’t live in the same home and maybe haven’t even met before, it doesn’t take long before the dogs will form a new pack and get along just fine, right? Now, watch when a hyperactive, anxious, aggressive or barking dog shows up: it changes everything. This new dog is presenting an unstable energy which disrupts the peace of the pack, temporarily throwing it out of balance. Stability and balance are crucial to a dog pack and the pack members each play a role in maintaining that stability. So when an unstable dog enters the area, it will generally either get physically corrected by another dog for presenting that instability or it will absorb the calm, stable energy of the pack and blend right in. Some pack members may even avoid the new dog altogether to steer clear of the unstable energy. Pack stability is hard-wired into dogs because the survival of the pack and its members depends upon functioning together as a group—each pack member knows his role and relies upon the others to play their roles. When instability presents itself to the pack, the pack members will try to correct and change it—sometimes simply with their body language and energy while other times by using physical correction with their mouths. To us, a physical correction may look like an attack, but to them it’s just normal and natural communication that they instinctively understand. It’s their way of communicating “Hey, knock it off. Your unstable energy is bad for the group.” But dogs don’t have voices capable of speech nor do they have hands to point, grasp or hold, so they use their mouths for much of their communication. By learning what they mean when they use their mouths, we’re able to understand them better.

When my staff and I go to a client’s home to teach the owner how to resolve his dog’s behavioral issues, the first thing we do is read the body language and energy of the dog. It tells us what that dog is all about: calm, excited, fearful, anxious, aggressive, dominant, submissive, frustrated, etc. Whatever it’s projecting, we read it and we know how to respond so we can effectively instruct the owners on how to help their dogs achieve the balance they need. (Reading the body language and energy of the humans and how that affects the dog is the other major factor in resolving dog behavior issues…but again, that’s another topic.)

By learning the language of dogs, we can understand them, better communicate with them, and build a stronger bond with our four-legged companions.