Dogs are adept at noticing our body language, but unfortunately, our intentions are often lost in translation. Read on for tips on how to effectively communicate with your canine."Frisky!" - No response. Frisky just keeps on sniffing the closest bush.
"FRISKY!" - Still no response.
So you try again, "Come here now!" And again, "Here, get over here!" "Right here!" "Come!" "I mean it!" "Come on boy!" "Come, come, COME! FRISKY!"
No response. Is Frisky deaf?
Possibly. More likely, he's suffering from the infamous selective deafness, where he tunes out most of your babbling yet can hear a single piece of popcorn hit the floor from three rooms away. After all, you just keep on and on with your talk. It would be one thing if you made sense, but how is he to make any sense of how you just called him?
Words: Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
If you say "Down" to tell your dog to lie down, don't say "Down" to tell him to get off the sofa he's already lying down on. Choose one word per desired behavior, and use it consistently.
Look at how you called him from his point of view. First you just called his name. That may have gotten his attention, but then you never told him what you wanted. When you did finally get around to telling him, you gave him too many variations on the theme. It's not like he has a thesaurus at his disposal. And he's not a grammar expert. Stringing words together is not going to help him understand what you want.
Tone: It's not just what you say, but how you say it.
Dogs can't read. They hear your words as sounds, and your tone is an important part of what they hear. In the dog world, low-pitched sounds, like growls, are associated with dominant intentions, and high-pitched sounds, like yelps, with subordinate intentions. You can do the same.
If you want your dog to mind you, use a low-pitched command. There's a reason drill sergeants sound like, well, drill sergeants. Low-pitched sounds indicate power, aggression and leadership, and are often used as threats. They make the recipient take notice.
But if you want your dog to play or to feel at ease, you can use your high-pitched baby talk. It's natural to speak to dogs, especially puppies, in the same high-pitched voice that parents around the world use with their babies. This baby talk tends to encourage both babies and dogs to interact and play. In almost every species high-pitched sounds are made by infants and juveniles, and are often used by adults when squealing out in fear or in play. They make the recipient feel playful or dominant. It's non-threatening, but because of that, it's easy to ignore.
Cadence: It's not just what you say, and how you say it, but how fast you say it.
Dogs respond differently whether you draw out your commands or deliver them abruptly.
- To calm your dog down, or have him stay or slow down: Use a long, drawn out, quiet, monotone command: "Eaaassy," "Staaaaaaay" or "Doown."
- To stop your dog quickly: Use a low pitched abrupt sound: "NO!" "Aghht!" "Stop!"
- To hurry your dog along: Use a series of short, repeated high-pitched sounds that continue to rise in pitch "Go, go, go, go, go!" "Here, pup, pup, pup, pup, pup!"
Pay attention to what you say and how you say it, and your dog just might pay attention to you when you say it. Maybe.
What Your Body Language Says
Dogs are adept at noticing our body language, but unfortunately, our intentions are often lost in translation. For example:
- In the human world: Looking somebody directly in the eye is a sign of sincerity. In the dog world: It's a threat.
- In the human world: Striding right up to somebody to make introductions is considered polite. In the dog world: It's the height of rudeness.
- In the human world: Bending forward is only natural when we try to call a child to us. In the dog world: It pushes them away.
- In the human world: Slapping somebody on the back or tousling them on top of the head is a sign of affection. In the dog world: It's a statement of dominance.
- In the human world: Hugging somebody is a way to make them feel more secure. In the dog world: It's a statement of dominance.