By Dianna Young
If I were to visit Italy or Greece, I would be lost because I don’t have the skills for adequate verbal communication there.
But if I sent my dog to Italy or Greece, my dog would be able to communicate just fine with every dog that lives there. That’s because dogs don’t depend on verbal communication.
Lately I’ve been working in several of my classes with clients who put too much emphasis on the power that they believe verbal communication should have over a dog. And that’s a mistake, because I’ve been to many countries around the globe and I, just like my dog, have been able to communicate with dogs around the world just fine.
Dogs innately understand energy, body language and power of intention. And it doesn’t matter where the animals come from. My husband, Jason, recently had an experience in the Middle East which reinforces that. Jason was in a major city working as an advisor, and he and several men he worked with came upon a pack of nearly 20 stray dogs. The dogs approached Jason and the other men to see if they could obtain food and, because of his dog-training background, Jason could clearly see the rank structure within the pack. He was closely watching the behavior of the animals, and he could see which dog was in charge of the others. Another pack member that stood out from the rest was an old geezer dog which, because of his age, didn’t have the strength or the stamina of most of the younger ones. As a result, the one in command bullied the old dog quite a bit.
Jason took a liking to the geezer dog, but as the pack approached, the pack leader did not allow the geezer to enter Jason’s six-foot domination zone. This offended Jason a bit, so he corrected the pack leader; not with words, but with energy and body language. Jason prohibited the leader from coming within his six-foot zone, but befriended the old dog by allowing it within his inner circle. Jason’s companions were amazed as they watched this play out. All of it was done without a word. The dogs were more interested in Jason than they were in his companions, some of whom carried corn chips, because he offered meaningful interaction that they were programmed to understand.
The fact is Jason uses the same communication techniques the dogs would use within the pack. None of it involves verbal language.
Dogs can learn the simple meanings of quite a few words, and we do want to teach them to respond to verbal commands. But as humans, we tend to place too much emphasis on it.
I have imported several dogs into Washington from Europe, and of course the dogs that get off a plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have been raised in the environment of a different human language than the one they encounter here. That’s highly irrelevant to them, however, about the time I clip my lead to their collar. They understand my intentions through the power of that line.
You can make this aspect of a dog’s nature work for you. Through training, we can teach you how to be a strong and confident leader and how to project those qualities and other communications through body language. A dog appreciates that.
Think about it the next time you attach your lead to your dog’s collar. The best way to communicate with him is to transmit your wishes right through the lead.
And believe me; after a dog has been on a 12-hour flight from Europe – or at any other time — a strong and confident leader is what he wants to find on the other end of his line.
Dianna Young is a certified, professional dog trainer and canine behaviorist from Camano Island, where she operates Camano Island Kennels Dog Boarding and Training Facility. She can be reached at (360) 387-DOGS or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her web site address is http://www.camanoislandkennels.com. Or visit us at facebook.