How often do you get this look from you dog when you are talking to them?
Do you feel like your dog ignores you?
To you think of your dog as stubborn?
Communication with those of our OWN species and language can be challenging enough! Especially in the learning process. Not only is your dog a different species, they also communicate in very different ways. This can make it difficult for either end of the leash to understand what the other wants, needs, or is trying to "say".
Learning your dog's language
There are plenty of wonderful charts, videos and other resources out there that illustrate the different ways that dogs use their bodies and behaviors to communicate. You have probably seen some of them. Yet, you are not able to translate what your dog is telling you on a regular basis. Instead of being proactive when your dog is uncomfortable, you find yourself reacting to the over the top behaviors. Why is this?
Well, your dog is an individual and probably does not display some of those behaviors or maybe their body language says something slightly different than that chart you looked at. On top of that, much of what our dogs "say" is done with very subtle (and sometimes quick) body language. If we are not looking, we can easily miss an entire sentence! Learning your dog's "accent" will help you better interpret their needs.
Teaching your dog YOUR language
For the most part, the majority of your dog's communication is non-vocal. Humans are very vocal in their communication style. No matter how often you repeat yourself, your dog STILL does not understand what you are asking (or maybe they only do it "when they want to"). Frequently, the way you have gone about teaching your dog is the culprit. Break it down for them like they are a 2 year old. After all, they pretty much are! Remember that just because they can respond successfully in the middle of your living room with nothing going on, does not mean you can take them to the Farmer's Market and get the same results! Be patient and spend time on clearly teaching the foundations in a way your dog understands before you take things on the road!
When working with a Trainer
I find communication to be one of the linchpins to success with both people and their dogs. After all, I have to help you understand how to support, teach and understand your dog. Have you ever had a person teach you something and walked away feeling overwhelmed, confused, and faced with an insurmountable follow up task (aka: "homework")? That does not feel good to anyone and does not lead to success. I could give you the best training plan on the planet, but if you do not understand the instructions, don't have the time or bandwidth to do it, or your dog is not responding to it successfully, IT IS WORTHLESS! It is important to have a trainer who can break things down for both you and your dog; who can listen and modify plans so you and your dog can succeed; who understands that life happens and sometimes training your dog is not on top of the priority list that week; who builds you (and your dog) UP instead of tearing you down.
Clear communication helps us all! Your dog is "talking" to you all the time. You will benefit from learning listen to the whispers. They are doing their best given their understanding and learning history. Learning and teaching can be frustrating. When you feel you are hitting a wall, take a step back and try and approach it from another angle. If you reach out for help, be sure you find a trainer that listens and communicates in ways you understand.