Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dogs Don't Speak English

As obvious as the title is, the truth is they don't speak it, but they understand English. And even worse, dogs are much smarter than most of us believe. A dog is constantly analyzing every word, every movement (body language), and your voice tone is especially critical in your communication with your dog. If you are failing to communicate with your dog, the failure is yours, not the dog's. Dogs have left their natural world and joined into our unnatural world, and they make every effort to fit into ours as much as possible.

When we talk to dogs, they may not be able to speak back, but often times, especially if they have a desire to serve us, they are attempting to understand and interpret every word, and especially tone speaks volumes to a dog.

Here is a quick lesson in canine/human communications: When you speak to your dog, always say their name first to get their attention, and then give them the command.

Because we are always talking, sometimes it is hard for a dog to know we are talking to them.

Many people believe because human babies can not speak, they do not understand English and worse, when human babies begin to learn to speak, we think we have to talk to them in their goo goo language. If we talk to babies in complete sentences, with complex words, meaning big words, babies learn to speak much sooner than if we talk to them in baby language. Similarly, if we speak to our dogs in complex, detailed, and very specific explanations of what we want and what we don't want, and then if we use soothing tones when we are pleased, and we use a deep growling tone when we are not, we are talking to a dog in a language it can understand. Just like a human baby, they may not be able to speak, but they understand English.

The more we talk to our dogs, the better will be their comprehension of the English language. I have puppies at three and four months old who are doing exactly what I want them to do, often because they've done it before and I reward them, and they follow the examples of the older dogs. In my opinion, more important than good breeding is socialization, or what I would call raising a puppy. Four critical aspects that lead up to a good finished hog dog is:

1) Good Breeding
2) Well-raised as a puppy
3) Socialized and started hunting
4) Fine-tune the hunting experience so that they can survive close contact with the second most dangerous species in North America, after the grizzly bear.

Many people believe you can't make a hunting dog into a pet and then expect them to hunt. Well, to each it's own. But all the old timers who I know, who are legends, are very much attached to their dogs. They have a relationship, a heart-felt connection; let me just be blunt about it, they love their dogs, and their dogs know it. If you want to get the utmost out of your dog, I suggest you be creative, open-minded, and swallow your pride--learn from your dog.

Another language that dogs understand much more than most of us that are even aware of is body language. If a dog does not trust us, and we have quick, aggressive body movement, and we do not physically express pleasure by rubbing their head and scratching their belly they may not feel attached to us, and thus trust us.

In the hierarchy of the pact, dogs attempt to find their place. The leader of the pack has many followers, and the followers are in what we call a pecking order. Sometimes dogs get jealous if other dogs are our favorite. We need to be aware and sensitive to dogs sense of place. Especially when they are young and just getting started, and are uncertain as to where their place is.

For instance, a dog's body language, when they roll over and are being 'shy', we need to encourage them and reward them for bowing down to us and rolling over. Especially if a dog is shy as a puppy, they are communicating to us with their body language that they are submitting to us, who is the leader of the pack. We should reward them for their submission, not be ashamed over the fact they are shy. They are just a puppy, and are trying to show some respect. We should reward them for being respectful of our dominance, leadership, and authority. Most of the time, they will grow out of this and they will be courageous because they will feel they are a part of something that is larger than themselves.

In the wild, it is called the pack, as in wolves. As domesticated pets, or hunting dogs, they become a part of our tribe, or family. Either way, the dog is relating to a social order. We need to understand how a dog thinks and what motivates them to be a part of the pack. Ideally, I want dogs who are alpha, leader of the pack, what I call a one dog situation; meaning, in terms of hunting hogs, they don't need any help. The strangest part of this is that in one dog situations an alpha often resents any other dog 'honoring' their bay. I hear many people complaining because their other dogs don't go to and honor a bay. Maybe the best dog doesn't need any help and the other dogs know it, and respect it.

The point I want to make in this blog post is about relationship. Dogs want to relate to us, and they are able to do so much easier when we actively relate to them. Verbally, through our body language, and especially our voice tone, becomes sensitive indications which a dog is constantly analyzing as to whether or not we are happy or displeased with what they are doing. Although dogs tend to live in the 'now', when we are consistently forgiving of their mistakes and encouraging their accomplishments, they remember these things and their trust, their loyalty, and their level of service grows in comparison.

If you don't think you need to relate to your dog, this post is not for you. I don't have a problem with that, but for many years now I have been recognized by some of the leaders in the hog dog world as having the best 'handle' on my dogs. Recently, Reggie Little referred someone to me to buy a puppy or started dog, and he told them just that. I was 'one of the best trainers in the business.'

I never thought much about it: I just did it. The more I did it, the better I got at relating to my dogs. And when I realized they were smarter than me, I started learning from them. I really learned a lot about dogs from the old timers, but it's because I related to my dogs and I recognized that their hunting skills were superior to my own and I allowed them to do things that were contrary to what I wanted them to do, because I came to realize and respect that they knew more about what they were doing, then what I wanted them to do. Go and find a hog and keep him there till I got there.

For me, the things I'm referring to here are common sense. Perhaps for many of you reading this, it doesn't make any sense at all. That's because you've never tried it. We think that dogs think the way we do. We are wrong if we think that way. Dogs are trying to be a part of our world, but they are bringing a large part of their world with them. Because the social order of a dog pack is similar to the social order of the tribe, or human family, dogs have adjusted well. Of course, you might be embarrassed if you talk to your dog and someone is listening. If they observe your dog doing what you tell them to do, when you tell them to do it, and how you tell them to do it, like me you may notice amazement and a great deal of respect and admiration coming from these people.

Many times people want me to train their dog for them, but they don't want to come to school. I tell them this won't work because your dog will listen to me, and respect me, and love me, but nothing will change between you and your dog unless you learn how to speak and relate to your dog on their level.

Dogs may not speak English, but they understand a lot more than most of us are aware of. Whether you are aware of it or not, your dog is constantly analyzing everything you say and do and making their best attempt to adjust according to the boundaries, conditions, and commands that we express towards them.

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