Part of what I do when I train dogs, is help clients understand and learn to read their dog’s body language. Did you know that most of the way that a dog communicates is through his body language and his facial expressions? Dogs really have a very quiet world. Barking is only one of the ways that they communicate, but it’s certainly not the only way that they speak to us!
When you have a dog who is a special needs dog…and especially for those of us with emotionally reactive dogs….it’s imperative that you really spend some time learning how to understand what your dog is saying to you. For those of you with shy or skittish dogs? Absolutely you need to know what your dog is speaking to you, because you may end up damaging your trust with him if you don’t respect his boundaries.
Knowing stress and anxiety signals can really make a huge difference, because when you can see that your dog is stressing, you can relieve his stress by removing him from the situation, and ultimately that will help him understand that you have his back and he can trust you to keep him safe!
Fearful anxious dogs are the ones who typically bite, so it’s imperative that you really understand stress signals in your dog so that things don’t escalate into something ugly!
I recently found a great website that really has some excellent information about anxiety and safety with dogs. It’s called “www.doggone safe.com.” It’s really a site geared up for dog bite prevention, but the information about canine communication is definitely worth the time you’ll spend reading it. There is really a whole lot of good descriptive information that will tell you what to look for, and that’s so very helpful. There are good photographs, and videos that will help you understand what you’re seeing.
And then after you understand what to look for, start to carefully watch your dog, or even other dogs to see if you can spot ways that they are communicating. A dog park (without your dog) is a great place to go and just watch dog behavior. You’ll get good at spotting the subtle signs after a few visits, and subtle is the key! Most dogs don’t carry a billboard to say, “I’m a bit nervous. Stay away.” They communicate as best they can, but imagine how frustrating it must feel to be talking and no one is listening or understanding or respecting what you’re saying about your current situation.
When I’m working one-on-one with dog owners, I’m always telling them what their dog is speaking, so that they can learn how to understand them. It’s such a kind and loving thing that we can do for our dogs. And it can make all the difference in the world for getting results when you’re training through a tough behavior.
I think most owners really do take good care to understand their dogs, but I also think that most owners are just clueless when it comes to understanding their dog’s stress signals. So they plow on ahead, and drag their dogs along, which must feel so frustrating and scary to a dog.
So do your dog….and ultimately yourself….a big favor, and learn to speak dog!!