Posts Tagged ‘dogs and people’

Stop Talking – An experiment to try with your dog

September 3, 2013 32 comments


I’ve been conducting an experiment with my dogs over the past couple of days, and I have to admit it has been WAY more difficult than I thought it would be.

You see, when it comes to my dogs I’m a bit of a talker. I talk to them about what I’m going, what they’re doing, what they want to do (“Wanna go outside?”) and where they want to go (the dog park always gets a “yes”). I have conversations with them and they listen and turn their heads or perk their ears or come over for some attention. It’s an integral part of our daily routine.

But recently, I read a post (Why Does My Dog Ignore Me?) that was very similar to another post I read last year (“A Simple Trick for Calming a Hyper Dog“) about how much we talk to our dogs. The advice of both authors? Stop talking. You talk to much and your dog doesn’t care. They don’t communicate by talking, they communicate by body language.

Of course, I already knew that dogs communicated by body language. I also knew that we humans tend to overuse some words when it comes to our dogs (which brings to mind a dog at our dog park that we call “Marley Off” because that’s pretty much all she, and we, heard while she was there). It’s one of the reasons I started calling Jasper by another name (“Trouble”). I had used his real name so much when calling for him that he had learned to ignore me. Finding a new name, one he associated with fun, turned things around. But, I have never tried just shutting up, not saying anything to my dogs. Let me tell you it was hard.

But, I am also glad I did it. Why? Because I learned some things about myself and my dogs:

  1. I talk too much to my dogs.
  2. My dogs seem to already know this and ignore my over-communication .
  3. My dogs and I have a routine, so my not speaking to them made no difference to them because they already knew the routine.
  4. Cupcake follows me around the house, whether I speak to her or not. She wants to be where I am. Daisy and Jasper are used to the routine, so they know I’ll be back.
  5. All 3 of my dogs tend to follow the movements of my hands and body more than the words coming out of my mouth. Me opening the door and motioning for them to go through it had the same effect as me opening the door and asking them if they wanted to go outside.
  6. Jasper is tends to focus on what my eyes and my face are saying to him than the movements of my hands and body. He reads me specifically by watching to see if I am smiling or frowning, happy or sad.
  7. My dogs are much, much smarter than I ever gave them credit for (and trust me, I already knew they were smart).

All in all, I have to say it was quite the experiment. It definitely was hard. So many times I caught myself about to say something to them and then stop and just close my mouth. It’s definitely not easy being quiet.

But, I learned a lot about me and my dogs. I guess all that talking really is for me, not them. Will I stop talking to them? Probably not, but I will try talking less.  Maybe it will bring us both a bit of zen. 🙂

So now I am wondering… Has anyone else tried experimenting with their dogs like this? If so, what did you learn?  If not, will you try it? I would love to hear what you learn from it. 


Treating People More Like Dogs

September 11, 2011 17 comments

I was catching up on some blog reading this past weekend (this is what happens when you get a full-time job and can’t keep up on all your favorite blogs!) when I came across this one by Pamela over at Something Wagging This Way Comes. Thought-provoking, insightful, and a great message about the kindness of strangers – in this case, the stranger would be Pamela.

It really got me to thinking about how I can improve my personal approach in situations where the dog owner is treating their dog in a way that I believe is harmful. I’m not very tactful when it comes to situations like this. I pretty much say what is on my mind. But that doesn’t really help the situation does it? In fact, it might even make things worse, especially for the dog.

Pamela’s approach, and Vicky’s comments (see the comment section) made me realize that there is still so much I have to learn about working with people. I have no problem with dogs, that comes naturally to me, but humans? That’s a whole different ball game.

I am more apt to give a dog the benefit of the doubt than a person. I watch their behavior and often wonder at the root cause. What caused them to act this way? What triggered it? What past experience led to the behavior? How can I communicate to this dog in such a way that I can help them get beyond where they are now? These are the things I think when working with a dog.

And yet, when it comes to people I often go right to judgement. I forget that every person has a story, a tragedy, a personal experience; all of which makes up the person before me. I don’t know their story. I don’t know what makes them tick. I certainly don’t know why they react the way they do – with people or dogs. Perhaps if I took the time to speak with them, to learn a little more, to better understand who they are, and where they are coming from, then maybe my contribution to the world would be a better one. Certainly more dogs would be the better for it.

I have a lot to learn in this world, but I think the lesson I take away from Pamela’s post is that I need to treat people more like I treat dogs. Seek to understand and then influence positively. Maybe it’s time to practice what I preach.

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