YOUR DOG IS COMMUNICATING WITH YOU, NOW LISTEN!
By Stephanie McGregor KPA-CTP
Imagine you were taken to a different county, where the people only communicated using sign language, punished you for communicating verbally, and had a completely different set of societal rules. They use the washroom in the common room, when they greet each other they rub foreheads and to show love and affection they hold each other by throats.
Sounds crazy right? But it is what dogs go through every day when they are forced to fit into our human world. A dog may bark to express anxiety and then get his neck yanked with a leash correction or yelled at. He may urinate inside because he was never trained to go outside, and then punished, but he has no idea why, which can cause anxiety issues. He may be nervous about approaching a new and unknown object, person or situation, but dragged toward the ‘scary thing’ anyways, possibly resulting in an aggressive response.
Please take the time to learn how dogs communicate with other dogs, us and the environment. Take the time to train your dog properly; don’t expect that he will know what is right and wrong.
Dogs are not verbal creatures – They communicate with each other, and with us mainly using body language. Dogs often use what are known as “calming signals” when they are feeling uncomfortable. Some common calming signals are yawning, lip licking, looking away, holding up one paw or sniffing the ground. If your dog suddenly starts offering any of these signals, he is probably uncomfortable.
Never punish a dog for growling – When we ignore the dogs calming signals, he may resort to growling. Growling is a clear message that he is uncomfortable. It’s also an indication that a bite could happen if things don’t change. Be thankful that your dog is giving you a warning before he feels the need to defend himself. You can train your dog to cope with the situation eventually, but in this moment, say thank you and remove him from the situation. Punishing growling suppresses the growling, not the fear, and eliminates a useful warning signal. So please, don’t punish your dog for growling.
I challenge you to become educated and watch for these signals in your dog(s). Sign up for an obedience class, read one of the many books on canine communication and start watching and listening to your dog.
Stephanie McGregor KPA-CTP
Lucky Dog Positive Training Services