By Scott Hunt – The Dog Grumbler
AS I point out in the Black and White Dog Book, a dog is the easiest of all the animals for humans to interact with.
Much of its body language mirrors ours and it’s an expert in this field; its eyes and mind are tuned to movement.
It uses sound much as we do, but not words. When we talk to a dog as we would a human baby or toddler, the dog understands at least as much as the toddler does. Each understands the tone of our voice instinctively.
Most of all, the dog is willing.
These three components give us an edge — if we want a dog to understand us at toddler level, we over-act. Sure it’s embarrassing, but with patience, consistency and understanding we can eventually get the message across quietly.
With patience, consistency and understanding we can raise dogs for behaviour and not just obedience.
But for best results, we need to be willing to understand them.
Animals don’t do words; they do sounds. They understand what happens. They learn what to expect. They remember sounds and smells and patterns of movement and action and link them in chronological sequence and learn to predict — based on experience — what will happen next.
If there’s a pattern of events in your life, your dog will learn it. So will your cat and your chooks.
Pick up your car keys — see? Your dog had to learn that. You didn’t set out to teach it that the keys mean the car; you just made it happen consistently; the dog did the clever part.
Some dog trainers swear by the “dominance down” technique. Some dog trainers just say “bah!” when a dog misbehaves or a rule is about to be broken. These things work as long as the trainer is patient and consistent. Some dog trainers are perceived to be cruel when they use these techniques — by people who can only think like a human.
Dogs have a talent and a desire to fit into our lives. They are domestic animals and must learn to live in a human world, but we can benefit from respecting not just their talents and virtues, but also their language and their culture. When I grumble to show a dog I am displeased the dog does not take offence, this is how dogs must communicate — with actions not words.
The world that animals inhabit is the same as ours, but there are parts of it we never consider. Dogs have much to share, but we need to walk in their world to fully appreciate it — and as tourists we can only benefit by learning a little of the local language.
Overact — sing and dance when you are happy, grumble when you are displeased. Your dog will appreciate your respect for its culture.