Friday, 11 November 2011

DOGS ARE MORE SENSITIVE THAN MOST PEOPLE REALIZE…

A dog's sense of hearing and smell is much more acute then ours. For most people our primary form of communication is voice, but dogs rely on body language to consciously communicate much more than humans do.

And while all dogs are sensitive beings - some dogs are even more so - these dogs have heightened sensitivity. Heightened sensitivity (HS) can be an amazing asset if you know how to understand  and enable the best in a dog that is an HS dog - you can read about that here.

Dogs are very sensitive and use their senses (sight, scent sound) more keenly and consciously than people do. Dogs look at a human's face to understand, ask and engage the human.


When we think of something that makes us happy, unhappy, sad, angry, excited, etc. the thought translates to our body. We may tense our shoulders, clench our hand, narrow our eye, purse our mouth, change our breathing, sweating and so on. This is our physical reaction to our own thoughts...as translated to our bodies = body language.

Body language is a form of communication and your dog takes notice - instantaneously…our dogs are often aware of what we feel before we are.

This is just one reason why it is so important to learn to be aware of your own emotional state when you are communicating to and working with your dog. 

You cannot hope to lead your dog in an affective manner if are not aware of what you are projecting. 

You will indeed lead - but not as you hoped to! The instant you get emotional, you either lose your dog audience - meaning they will no longer pay attention to the direction you are attempting to provide or you will influence them to become reactive just as you are! If your dog is barking and you are yelling at it to stop - well guess what...you are a hypocrite. Why? Because you are barking too! Behaviour wise - never ask someone (including a dog) to do what your not prepared to do your self!

Dogs are also very sensitive and aware of physical presence and how dogs and people occupy space

This is how a dog herds other animals and sometimes people too! It is also how a dog clams space. If your dog jumps on visitors and the visitor pulls back - this is an invitation to the dog to move further into the visitors space. If you yield space to the dog it will move into the space you yield. Conversely, if you do not withdraw but instead move into the dog’s space the dog will back away. If you hold a treat in your hand and put your hand up high - the dog will see this as an invitation to move into your space and jump for the treat. If you hold you hand at your side with calm confidence and ‘own’ the treat the dog will not move-in to take the treat unless you offer it to the dog. If you calmly and confidently ‘occupy’ a doorway, a dog will not bolt through in front of you.




So, if you want to better understand and work with your dog...train yourself to be aware of and in control of your emotional state, be aware of your body language and how you occupy space and learn to see when your dog looks at you asking for direction. 

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Related Articles & Advisory Services

For related and additional articles on dog and cat: behaviour; care; communication and psychology; health; training; nutrition, and animal advocacy go to the index page of my blog site.

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Notes:
Please note - this article is for information purposes and is not a substitute for an in-person Session with me. When working with dogs I use many techniques - it is important to note that this article may touch on one or several techniques but not all. I select the technique that I use for a particular dog based on my observations of the dog and an intuitive, instinctive assessment of that dog's and its human's individual requirements. For example when I am working with a dog that is hyper sensitive and very physically reactive I will not use voice or touch. I use a lot of therapeutic touch on some dogs, others require the use of herding techniques and so on. Each and every technique must be combined with:
  • an understanding of the real intelligence, sensitivity and capability of dogs;
  • an understanding of how to read a dog's face and a dog's overall body language;
  • an understanding of the full spectrum of ways that humans communicate and dogs communicate; 
  • understanding and recognition of the individual that is each dog - no two dogs are the same...taking a 'cookie cutter' approach to techniques is not the way to work with a dog;
  • a complete recognition and understanding of all the elements that feed a behaviour and create an issue:
    •  the vast majority of people can only identify one or two elements...which vastly inhibits the ability to resolve behavior issues;
    • behaviours do not exist in isolation - there are always many elements that feed a single behaviour, there all always multiple behaviours that create a behavioral issue;
  • self-restraint and discipline on the part of the human who is directing the dog;
  • sensitivity, awareness, intuition, instinct and timing on the part of the human who is directing the dog;
    • to understand, connect with and adapt quickly and effectively to a dog's learning requirements you must be able to employ the same tools a dog uses - acute sensitivity, awareness, instinct, intuition and timing;
  • kindness, endurance, consideration, patience, persistence, perspective, the ability and know how to let the past go, the ability to set realistic expectations at any one point in time;
  • the creation of structure, rules, boundaries and limitations for each situation at the macro and micro level;
  • understanding of all the elements that make up an instruction and direction to a dog...there are multiple steps involved in an instruction - not just one!
  • absolute honesty - if you cannot be honest with yourself you will not be able to communicate clearly with a dog.
These are just some of the techniques that I teach my clients - it is a holistic, all-encompassing approach. If you are missing any one element of the above mentioned your success rate will be affected to one degree or another in implementing the techniques offered in the article presented above.