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Show Me - Say What?

Posted by Christina Potter on

Christina & Chester

Not much causes as many problems in relationships as does a lack of communication. Whether human to human, or human to dog; listening to what the other party is telling you will help circumvent unnecessary misunderstandings. While humans may use words as their main form of communication, dogs primarily communicate with visual cues or body language. When those go unheeded, verbal communication, such as growling or barking, may ensue.

Many of us have seen that all too common video of an adorable toddler riding his dog like a pony. Or the video of a child pulling a dog’s face towards his own. The child and dog are filmed by an adult who will then comment how “sweet” and “funny” it is. The majority of dogs, even the most tolerant ones, will not find invasions of personal space amusing. If we look closely and study the dog’s body language, we can see all the warning signs. The dog attempting to move away, eyes wide, licking their lips, trying at all costs to remove themselves from this uncomfortable situation. Perhaps we see a yawn or even a subtle curling of the lip. One thing’s for sure, if we pay attention, we can almost hear the dog asking for help. Sadly, those pleas virtually always go unanswered resulting in a child needing stitches and a dog being blamed. The dog’s fate will practically be sealed and he may even pay for this transgression with his life. The caretaker will undoubtedly lament that “this was totally unexpected” and that Buster had “never done anything like this before”. If only the adult had “listened” more closely, this unfortunate accident would have been avoided.

Most dogs are eager to communicate, all we have to do is allow them to do so and listen. Allowing a dog to communicate means that we must not correct appropriate forms of communication, such as avoidance, a lip curl, a growl or even barking. Many people become alarmed when their dog growls or barks and are quick to correct these behaviors. A dog that verbalizes his discomfort has probably exhausted all other, more subtle, forms of appropriate communication. He is now begging you to listen. Be open to receiving his messages and keep matters from escalating to the point where Buster feels his only way out of an uncomfortable situation is to bite the adorable toddler sitting on him.

If you enjoy Christina's writing, check her books out! She is the author of “Chester Gigolo: Diary of a Dog Star” and "Insider Training: Chester Gigolo’s Dog Training Secrets Revealed” for which she won the 2016 DWAA Captain Haggerty award for Best Training Book and the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Award (Animals & Pets). She is also a contributing author to “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors”. She has written multiple articles which have appeared in various international publications.