Communication is important. Whether you’re talking with another person, or you’re working with your animal companion, the more clearly you communicate, the more likely they are to understand what you want, and to try to comply.
It’s easy for us to do this with other humans. Communicating with our pets, however, is a completely different story. It’s not a language barrier we’re up against, it’s a species barrier. Sure, we’re all part of the animal kingdom, but humans and dogs are two different species; where we can actually talk and use language to communicate our feelings and thoughts, dogs and other animals can’t. Their only way of communicating with us comes through their behavior; whatever our true state of mind is at any given moment – whether we’re aware of it or not – they reflect back to us through their behavior. It’s the most profoundly intimate game of Charades we could ever experience.
One of the first things I teach my clients – and something I’m always working on, myself – is to check in with themselves. Are they nervous? Calm? Afraid? Uncertain? Confused? If they’re not sure, I have them watch their dog’s behavior. Is the dog bouncing all over the place? Is he calm? Is she hesitant? Is he checking in with them? Is she completely disengaged and doing her own thing? Whatever the human is feeling is being communicated to the dog, and the dog is showing them they’re either on the right track, or they’re not.
Learn to communicate with your dog, learn to understand what your dog is telling you. Learn to really check in with yourself – and be honest, because your dog will never lie to you. You can act calm, cool, and collected, but if that isn’t how you’re truly feeling, your dog’s behavior is going to show you. He may not bounce all over the place or lunge and bark on the walk, but he won’t be trusting you, either. He might take the lead more often than not, he might pace instead of relax, he might get mouthy or pushy… There are a multitude of ways your dog can show you your true state of mind.
Have a great day, and remember: Stay calm and lead on.