Can you listen to your dog when they’re speaking to you?

Hiya everyone! I hope some of you this week are starting to get back to a little bit of normality. We are definitely getting some more dogs back which is so lovely to see and we’ve also seen lots of new faces this week too! Lots of teeny, tiny puppy faces starting their journey on their training plans. It’s all very exciting!

With all of these new pups starting their plans, I’ve been talking a lot about dog communication with clients and I thought I would share some of that conversation here with all of you. I think we all know that dogs have very limited use of their voice box (I don’t think those of you with barky dogs will agree with me there...) so dogs also have to communicate using their body language. Dogs are always speaking to us in their own special way and it’s our job to listen!

Think of it as learning a different language – but it’s not as complicated as French, I promise. We all know these kinds of faces around here.

I Trust You

When your dog decides that they trust you they show it by showing you their rear end... Charming! Turning their tail towards you means they are willing to show you their vulnerable side in the safety of knowing you won’t hurt them and may actually protect them. Think of it as your dogs way of saying “I know you’ve got my back!”. They can safely face another direction without the fear of being blindsided.

I’m So Happy

Hopefully you see this one all the time! Flappy tongues, flappy ears and a very goofy looking dog rambling through an open field. This is a dog showing you how happy they are! The looser a dog is, the happier they are. Ok, if they’re a puddle on the floor I would consider seeking some medical advice! Think of a lazy Sunday afternoon, on the beach and you haven’t got a care in the world. You’d be pretty laid back too, right?

This Is Making Me Uncomfortable

Now flip that! You guessed it the more tense the body language the more tense your dog feels. Look at their whole body. Is it tense and stiff? Is their mouth shut and tense? Where are they looking – straight at you in a hard stare? Loosey Goosey – happy chappy! Stiff as board – not so happy chappy!

So, what do you do when your dog looks like they need a minute or two? Exactly that. Dens are a great way to give your dog their own special place in your home that they can escape what is making them so upset. Sometimes the kids are too loud or sometimes the microwave is making the slightly different noise to usual. Your dog has their little hidey place to calm down and gather themselves ready to take on these new challenges (or just hide from them!)

This is the ladder of aggression. As you can see – your dog gives you a lot of warning signals before the dreaded bite happens. Give them space, give them time and don’t over power them. They can do this and they’ll come to you when they’re ready again.

If Rover is up at the top of the scale, don’t turn and run. Maybe his tolerance isn’t that high so he climbed the ladder more quickly than you anticipated! Never run or turn your back on him as he may see this as a “chase.” Bite on the bottom anyone? Instead why not really impress Rover by speaking his language. Now you’re fluent in French let’s test it out!

Let’s All Calm Down Everyone

Using calming signals in a situation like this help to diffuse the tension so you can move away and deal with that pesky microwave. I was in a training session with a little Jack Russell who is very sensitive to noise and new people especially when he thinks this new person is going to take him away from his beloved Daddy. He was sat next to his Dad on a bench and I was feeding him treats. I made the mistake of letting him sniff my hand while I was feeding the treats – yes dog trainers make mistakes too! The growling started and the teeth came out so instead of getting up and walking away I stayed put and glanced away from him. Team that with talking to his owners about the behaviour he was displaying and he decided to distract himself too by licking his paw. That was my que to get up and walk away! I could have yawned or even licked my lips too as a sign of calm and steadiness that this dog would have absolutely appreciated.

I hope this helps a little and gives a stepping stone onto the journey of being able to fluently speak to your canine friend. You’ll be having conversations on a park bench over a morning coffee in no time!

Until next time, keep those tails wagging! Rachel

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