The Communication Barrier

The importance of humans learning to communicate at a dog’s level

Huldah Nagel
Aug 26 · 3 min read
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Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

There seems to be a common misconception that training your dog, setting house rules and boundaries, or even asking your dog to do something they do not want to do is cruel. As humans we want to be the better, kinder person. But by letting our dogs have free range, are we in fact doing the exact opposite?

Umm, yeah…

Let me explain. Have you ever watched dogs interact with each other? Dogs hold each other accountable. If one dog in unruly, another will correct that him. If a dog is inappropriate, again, there is a correction. Mother dogs teach their puppies to behave with warning growls, bared teeth, and nips. Adult dogs do the same thing with each other.

Problems occur when WE humans take it upon ourselves to “be kind” and not teach our dogs to behave. Then dogs learn to do what they want. That causes problems in the house and with other animals. It causes confusion for the dog, and it can lead to mental instabilities such as aggression, fear, and anxiety. Despite those being thought of as common dog behaviors or simple personality traits, they SHOULD NOT BE. We have to communicate.

Am I advocating that you bite your dog? No. You can enforce boundaries without biting your dog. But as humans we need to accept that NOT setting boundaries and NOT asking our dogs to behave defies their nature. It causes confusion and chaos. It’s not just that dogs and people are different — it’s that humans don’t know how to communicate with their canine friends.

If you were to have a guest over that spoke a different language, you and your guest would figure out ways to communicate. You would meet halfway. Maybe you would both learn phrases in the other’s language. When that fails, you rely on universal hand gestures.

The same should be applied to dogs. Dogs learn our language — “sit” means sit, “quite” means stop barking, and so on. The kindest thing for us to do is to also learn their language, and that INCLUDES learning how to appropriately enforce boundaries and obedience. That earns a dog’s respect and, ultimately, love.

Though hard to learn, speaking dog is easy once you get the hang of it. How do you do it? Body language. Dogs communicate primarily through smell and body language. Since you can’t learn how to make your smells talk, you have to learn how to use body language.

This wasn’t meant to be a tutorial on appropriate body language. Maybe I’ll get to that. This was simply an argument for proper communication. Learn to communicate with your dog. Stop expecting the dog to do all the work. We need to meet halfway — nay, more than halfway! Learn to read body language. Learn to talk through body language. Love you canine friends.

H&I Dog Training

Helping you build a better relationship with your dog

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