An important component of building or repairing a relationship with your dog is communication. What words you use, how you use them and what your body language is saying. Clear, consistent communication is fundamental to demonstrating leadership to a dog.
Dogs communicate primarily through body language and while humans do too, we are much more focused on verbal communication. We are different species so some things are just lost in translation!
If someone is experiencing behavioural issues with their dog, the first thing I look at is how they communicate with their dog. There are many easy ways to improve this communication which goes a long way to help resolve common behaviour issues.
And if you welcome a new dog or puppy into your family, the first area I recommend EVERYONE focuses on is communication.
Providing clear, consistent communication to your dog or puppy is critical for the success of your everyday life together as well as the achievement of obedience training activities. Miscommunication between dogs and their humans is a common cause of problems in the home and in training.
Let me take you through some simple tips to improve communication with your dog.
Start by setting up a list of house rules for your dog and decide what command words you will use. People who will be involved with the dog should be aware of these rules and command words so that everyone is consistent.
This topic was covered in my previous post and included the lists of suggested common house rules and command words. These will soon be available through my website for free download.
Other than selecting your command words, there are two other sounds you should use with your dog. One for when they are doing what you want and the other for when they are not. These sounds will quickly and effectively let your dog know whether or not what they are doing is ok and acceptable to you.
A marker word is a sound that we use to mark our dogs’ appropriate behaviour. We use it when they comply with a command or when they offer appropriate behaviour.
It is usually a short sound like “yes” or “good”.
This is a sound that we pair with some kind of reward like our attention or food, so our dogs have a positive association with the sound.
This is a signal to our dogs that they are doing something we don’t want them to do or that they are not allowed to do. Common examples are “no”, “uh-uh”, “stop” or “no thank you”.
Use a stern voice and even include a body language cue (like a good old shaking of the finger!).
If we don’t let our dogs know when they are acting inappropriately or doing something we don’t want how else will they know? This sound is how we communicate with them when to stop unwanted behaviour.
Practice confident body language. Stand up straight, shoulders back, chest out. Don’t lean or hunch over your dog. If you need to get closer to them crouch down while maintaining your upright upper body.
Use your arms to point to direct your dog and use physical cues to help them to follow your verbal commands.
Walk with confidence and hold your head up high both around your home and when out on walks. Remember, dogs are great at reading our physical cues and when you channel calm, confident vibes your dog will respond in kind.
When giving a command to your dog make sure you have their attention first so you can be sure they hear you! Plus, make sure YOU are using the correct command word for the action you want.
Only give the command once, then follow through to either help the dog into position or give them a reward.
Be fair to your dog. Be consistent with the rules and commands words. It’s OK to change the rules if you need to as long as you teach your dog the new rules. It would be unfair to suddenly correct them for previously allowed behaviour.