In order to communicate with dogs, we have to understand them as dogs. We have to look at the species as the amazing animals that they are. One human trait that will make this difficult for us is our tendency to anthropomorphize, or to give human form or attributes to an animal, plant, material object, etc.
We will combat our natural tendency to anthropomorphize dogs by looking in a matter-of-fact way at some things that we know about dogs. By looking at what we know as facts about dogs, it will enable us to use those facts to aid in our interspecies communication skills.
This blog is focusing on the second thing that we as human beings know about dogs: dogs understand consistency well and accept consistency quickly.
Whatever we are attempting to communicate to a dog, it will be easier for the dog to understand if we are consistent. Whether it is an easy idea like sitting on command or a more difficult idea like getting your dog to be calm around other dogs, consistency will help your dog understand what you are trying to communicate.
When a dog understands what to expect in his day-to-day life, the dog can relax. Some of the stress caused by living so closely to another species will be easier for your dog to handle. It is beneficial to have a consistent schedule for our dog’s daily activities.
Consistency is not only useful in helping your dog to become less anxious; it is also helpful in creating a way to effectively communicate with a dog. We know that dogs do not understand spoken language well, but dogs can learn to respond when they are given verbal cues.
Each cue must mean the same thing whenever your dog hears it.
So if my dog is standing and I want the rear end of my dog to be lowered to the ground while my dog’s chest is held up, I call that sit. If my dog is laying down and I want the rear end of my dog to remain on the ground while my dog’s chest is held up, I call that sit as well. I would not call it up. Really when we give our dogs cues, we are creating associations with the cue word or command and what the dog ends up doing. It does not matter if the dog needs to raise its front end or lower its rear, what matters is that the dog consistently does what is necessary to end up in the sit position.
Another example? Sometimes I hear a person telling their jumping dog to “get down”, or a dog on the couch to “get down”, or a dog putting paws on the counter to “get down”. The same person will say “down” when they want their dog to lay down.
If my dog was on the couch and I said “down” I would expect her to lay down on the couch. If I want D-Dee to take her paws off something then I say “off”. That is true for whatever I want her to take her paws off of.
The third kind of consistency that is important is having consistent body language. Dogs pay attention to body language, so we need to be sure that the body language that we display matches the energy and idea that we are intending to communicate.
Being consistent is trickier than it sounds. To communicate ideas to dogs, we as human beings have to be consistent. The problem lies in the fact that human beings tend to be inconsistent. It is said that Eskimos have 26 different words for snow. As human beings we have synonyms, many, many synonyms.
If we are looking for easy communication with our dogs we need to be sure to ask for the same things the same ways, with the same words and body language each and every time.We do not need to always be on, but when we are intending close communication, with immediate correct actions from our dogs we need to be on.
If we understand what it means to be consistent, we will be able to communicate ideas to our dogs easier. If we practice consistency we will develop consistent habits. If we have consistent habits, communication with our dogs will be effortless.
Remember, calmness and consistency is the first part of clarity, and clarity is the first part of communication.
Keep practicing, keep training and Enjoy Your Dog!!!