Words of Woofdom – Communication: Say What?
According to a new canine communication study by Alexandra Horowitz and Julie Hecht, these are the most common words humans say to their dogs while they are playing: You. Good. Gonna. Yay! Whatcha. C’mon. Here. Ready. Boy. Girl. Gimme. How many of these words do you use? How do you use them?
This led me to thinking about our communication and how we communicate with our dogs. Recently, I did not communicate my thoughts well on a Facebook post and I realized how, at times, we don’t communicate well with other humans. How can we expect to communicate well with our dogs if we can’t communicate well within our own species? It may seem difficult but it actually is not. Here are a few ways to do this. Be clear and consistent. Always use the same word for the same behavior. Dogs do not understand English. They assign meaning to the sounds we make when we say words. If you consistently use the same sound (word) for specific behaviors, your canine companion will more quickly understand the meaning of that sound (word). Another way to add clarity when teaching a new behavior is to talk to your dog in a low, calm voice when they are doing what you requested and to stop talking when they are not. This gives your canine companion a clear communication signal. The feedback is that when your dog is doing the expected behavior, like a sit-stay, the calm soft voice is recognition of doing it right. When the behavior does not happen, there is only silence. In this way, we communicate by not saying a word.
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