I decided after thinking about a few topics to write since its Christmas time to write about the ability to communicate with our dogs...
During the year we are all very busy and have very little time to think how to speak to our dogs. Dogs communicate mostly through body language. Humans do too; in fact 98% of our communication is through body language. But we seem to miss this and only observe what we can hear.
Over the weekend like many other times before, I took my dogs to the beach. My very fluffy Husky Decota decided that the very dead seal on the beach is an odor he would love to have on his very furry body, like I would like to have an expensive perfume on mine. Being irritated with the thought that this dog of mine still need to get back into my car and after playing in the salt water this will stick like glue to him. Well to be honest usually I won't mind in fact I have taken video's of this, but we just had our car detailed.
So I started saying Decota in a firm Husky voice. He glanced at me for a very brief moment and then went back to putting on his newest perfume. Then I realized this is typical dog owner, I need to use training methods.
When teaching our dogs at dog school. We would say: Decota no, Decota sit, Decota heel, Decota come. You wouldn't just say Decota.
So he gave me what I asked for; I said Decota and he looked. So I said in a firm voice Decota no, Decota come. He stopped looked at me and came my way. I then decided to make a huge fuss over him as he did exactly what I asked him to do, which made it lots of fun.
Saying Decota for me can mean many things, but for my dog it only means his name. It's not a cue for him to do something, but how often do we expect them to read our minds. Their not human, they are dogs. They are not born speaking English or any other human verbal language. They can learn a lot of words about 100 words. We should use them wisely. We also should be direct with cues and consistent. We should try and not use words that sound a like, like sit and stay. It's both short and starts with an s. What works well is saying sit and showing stay with the palm of your hand faced forward and then saying stay.
We confuse our dogs when we don't communicate with them consistently. We should use simple words and use the words only for what we teach them for to start of with. When calling your dog, don't do what we as humans do. Say come Decota. As humans we would say things like come over here, Hey, Decota, over here etc. They don't get that and we confuse them and then get upset when they don't react like we want them too. Language is foreign to them and they can't read our minds.
Another reason why dogs ignore us when calling them is when there never really happens anything when you call them. They start to not hear it any more. Think if you live next to a busy street. The first few weeks after you have moved in, it's really annoying after a few months you never really hear it anymore, because nothing happens when you hear the sound. It's the same with dogs. That's why reinforcement should be variable and responding to a cue should have a positive impact on the dogs live. He should know if you say come, there is a big chance something good can happen. Other wise he will maybe only lift his head and go back to sleeping in the sun. How many of us call our dogs, just to make them excited to give them some attention and then when they get to us we just give them a pat on the head and walk on.
They don't want that all the time...
If you want to see how you talk to your dog and behave around him, ask someone to video tape you so that you can see what you really do. You will be very surprised.
So this Christmas give your dog the gift of trying to communicate more clearly to him.
Be safe and remember to have a first aid kit handy when you take your dog with on holiday.
Louise and her fur bunch