When working with dogs, it’s important to understand how dogs communicate with each other. Speaking their language makes training easier and more effective.
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Introducing an animal into a human world means being responsible for its health, happiness, and quality of life. If for some reason you weren’t aware yet, raising a pet means work. It can be hard, but also a lot of fun. Done appropriately and with love, it can be a very rewarding task.
The Root of the Problem
It’s easy to make the mistake of treating pets like humans — especially with dogs. While it’s frustrating to deal with a pooch that does not respond as expected to particular commands, such behavior does not necessarily indicate a dumb dog.
Ethics aside, striking a dog over bad conduct does not encourage improvement. On the other hand, pampering a mutt to excess because it’s “cute” doesn’t shape good behavior either.
Since they descend from wolves, it’s important not only to know how dogs function and communicate but understanding wolves better gives us a little insight on how to approach them. It can be hard to imagine that a little Chihuahua lying on the rug trying to chew on a tennis ball bigger than its head shares behavioral traits with wolves, but for the owner this typical canine behavior is important to acknowledge.
Rather, they can try to pick up on emotions that their owners display, and they analyze the sounds their owners make.
What Sparky Hears
Take, for instance, the word “no.” People tend to yell “No!” at their dogs when they do something undesired. What they don’t realize is that no matter how emphatically, theatrically, or loudly they say it, the dog doesn’t understand the word as a command to stop an action or a scolding for chewing on the new curtains. Sparky might be able to tell that the owner is a little upset, but chewing is normal canine behavior, so in his mind, why would Master be upset about something like that? He won’t connect the yelling with the action, especially for something that he had done hours ago while the owner was at work.
Dogs respond more to different kinds of sounds rather than specific sounds. Think about the sound mentioned above: “No!” Such a sound means little to a dog; it’s just obnoxious noise; yelling at Sparky when his gift is found in the living room will not faze him—and nor will rubbing the poor dog’s face in it. Sparky sniffs it on his own anyway, so that means nothing to him and will only make the owner suffer because now Sparky smells bad and needs a bath.
Rather than yelling, a short, sharp, unpleasant sound during the action, such as a loud “Ah-ah!” will effectively get his attention. Wolves don’t often bark. They save low, sharp barks for warnings for the rest of the pack. Knowing this, it’s easy to see why dogs will respond to a similar sound. Also, it’s very important to stop the dog during the crime and not scold him afterward. Chances are his “crime” involves normal canine behavior; scolding him for it afterward will be ineffective; he won’t connect the scolding with the action, and he’ll probably happily do it again.
It is unfair to expect a dog to respond to human language and tendencies. While they may catch on to certain things with training, treating them like they are humans will not help them learn what is expected of them or teach them to do (or not to do) the things desired (or undesired, respectively). In fact, it’s more likely to confuse them and even worsen their behavior. It is the owner’s responsibility to reach their brand of understanding. Once they do, the owners will find that their canine friend is more than happy to work with them.
You may also be interested in Top Tips For Socializing A Puppy With Ease.
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