The Language of the Dog

by Jill Porter, QUALITY AUSSIES
(reprinted with the author's permission)

 

Dogs have a language all their own.   It is not like those used by humans, who tend to be more verbal and less about body language.  Dogs have so many non-verbal cues, in addition to the various vocalizations they use.  They are experts at noticing and reading body language in each other and in us.
       
One of the most important things we as dog owners can do is learn how our dogs communicate.  So many people think of their dogs as "human" or "children", often calling them "fur kids" and other names.   It’s fine to love your dogs as much as you would your human kids, but dogs are NOT human nor do they view the world as such.   That is not a bad thing, but if people view them as humans in fur suits, it does a great disservice to this wonderful species.   It also sets up the relationship for a lot of frustration and even false expectations.   As we learn how to better understand our canine friends, we can also communicate better with them.  Think how frustrating it must be for a dog to be treated like a human because no matter how hard he tries, he cannot be a human.   Many people attribute human emotions or motivations to dogs, such as spite, jealousy and such.   How many times have you heard a person say "my dog did that out of spite" or something similar?  Those dogs are misunderstood by their owners, who may have the best of intentions but lack insight.   This misunderstanding can lead to all kinds of things, including an owner punishing a dog for a normal dog behavior, and even being frustrated with the dog.   A dog will sense this and will be stressed, which often causes more "bad" behavior, and the cycle will continue.   It can also lead to not being able to accurately meet your dog's needs as a DOG and come up with training and management that accurately address each situation.   When you know your dog well as a DOG, you can more totally meet his needs.   This is not to say that dogs don't have emotions that may be quite similar to our own (love, fear, and so on) but often the MOTIVATIONS for many of their behaviors will not be the same as a human in the same situation.  That is a key difference.   They also perceive the world differently than humans, and various things may have more or less value to a dog than to a human. Once you learn how to read your dog, and understand how differently he views the world, it can open up a whole new world to you.   It will definitely deepen both the relationship you have with your dog and also your ability to communicate with him and understand what he is trying to tell you.   You will both gain a new respect for each other.

 

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Dogs are amazing creatures, as they are able to fit in our human world even when their owners are not well versed in canine communication.    It is a testament to their adaptability, and ability to put up with US!  There isn’t another species on earth that can relate to humans as deeply as the dog.  
Something else to consider is HOW dogs communicate.  They use a wider range of body language than people, and a lot less vocalizations.  Even so, they do have a range of noises they make when "talking" with each other.   These would include barks, whines, grunts, growls, howls and other noises.   These are just a small part of what dogs use to communicate.   Unlike humans who rely on a complex spoken language, dogs can say all kinds of things without uttering a sound.  The positions of their lips, ears, tails and bodies can speak volumes to other dogs, and to people who understand canine communication.   They can also use various expressions with their eyes to tell other dogs how they feel.  

Spend time watching your dog interact with other dogs and try to learn his canine code.   Several good books and websites exist with illustrations and photographs which can help you decode your dog’s language.  The more you learn, the better you will be able to communicate with and understand your dog.

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