You've probably had a day or two when you felt like your dog just wasn't paying any attention to you at all, right? You talked, you yelled, you shouted, maybe you jumped up and down and waved your arms, but she just wasn't interested in anything you had to say to her in any tone of voice. You're not alone.
Your dog isn't human.
Unless you believe in pet psychics, there's really no way for you to read your pooch's mind and figure out exactly what she's thinking. The good news is that, like many dog owners, the problems you're having can probably be traced to one simple thing: you're trying to communicate with your dog from a human standpoint, and your dog isn't a human. Sure, you know that, but lots of humans try to relate with their dogs in the ways that they think are rational as humans. The problem is that dogs are driven in every act and every moment by very strong instincts. Deciphering those instincts and leveraging them to build a productive relationship is like finding the keys to the city.
Your dog doesn't speak English.
Take the word "no," for example. Does your dog speak English? Not understand English. Does she speak it? What's meaningful to her is your tone of voice, not the word itself. Now let's think about that - we're taking up excess time trying to teach our dog a word she'll never speak and that probably doesn't mean much to her anyway. Sure, it's meaningful to us, but that's only one side of the equation. What about something that's meaningful to both human and dog?
You know what a growl means, and your dog knows what a growl means.
If you think that mutually meaningful language doesn't exist, you're not thinking creatively enough. What does it say to you when a dog growls at you? Anything from "get away from my food" to "back off, dude," right? Yet in every case, a dog's growl typically means that she is not happy with whatever you've done. And you've seen dogs react to other dogs' growls, right? So you know what a growl means, and your dog knows what a growl means. Where's the disconnect? Growl at your dog!
No, seriously. The next time your pooch starts stepping outside her bounds or doing something you don't like, growl at her. A nice, strong, guttural growl that would put the alpha wolf in a pack to shame. While you're growling, look directly into her eyes. You're almost guaranteed that she'll back off. It might be best to try it in your home environment to start with - I don't want to be held responsible for you getting funny looks in the street!
Instincts save time and communicate effectively.
See that? You worked with her instinct and the information hardwired into her brain, and the result was instantaneous. Why spend tons of time trying to work against that instinct and end up frustrated, angry, and still miscommunications? This approach works in everything from basic discipline to full-on obedience training. You just need to figure out how to apply it in each of those situations.
4 things frustrated Dog Owners should know!
by Paul Duxbury
Paul is Head of Training for a major UK Charitable Organisation. He has just launched www.dog-lover.co.uk which offers a range of products for all Dog Lovers!