Speak your dog’s language!

by Shaun Kenvyn // June 2017

Speak your dog’s language!

It is obvious, but sometimes needs to be said, dogs don’t speak English or indeed any other language that we speak. Over the years I have had clients that speak to their dog in various languages, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Lithuanian and Welsh. Bilingual owners speaking to their dog in both languages, but our poor dogs don’t have a clue.

Dogs and people share lots of emotions; they know when we are happy and when we are sad. They respond to our tone of voice, a happy tone might elicit a tail wag or and a head tilt. They know when we are angry and or threatening, but they certainly don’t know why. A raised voice and threatening fist shake will elicit cowering and moving away from us, which looks again like they understand. When really the dog just feels intimidated and worried about what might happen next.

Dogs communicate with body language mostly and facial expression, they learn by association and consequence, but timing is crucial!

Owners quite often come to our classes and their dogs can sit, but more often than not, the owner through no fault of their own, is repeating "sit" while also moving their hands bending at the waist and nodding their head. This is quite a lot for our dogs to take in; I always think less is more!!

Here is one example of how to teach your dog to sit, in his language, without confusing him!

Teaching a sit using a lure:

1. Start with a treat in your hand, and move your hand (without speaking) towards the dogs nose. As the dogs nose will naturally follow the food, his bottom will move towards the floor into a sit. 

2. After practicing this a few times, start to do this without a treat in your hand, still without speaking, your dog should start to anticipate what you want from him, and offer the sit when you make the hand signal. Make sure you are still rewarding your dog when he does the sit, but use a treat from your pocket rather than a treat from your hand! 

3. Once your pup is really good at doing the sit with the hand signal, you can start using your voice instead! Say "sit", pause for a second, then give the hand signal you have been using. When your dog sits, reward him! After a few goes of this, your dog will guess that you are going to want the sit, and will start to sit before the hand signal! 

4. Keep practicing! Take your dog to lots of different locations and practice in all of them to help them learn that you like it when they do this in all sorts of different places!