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Pet Resources - Dog Behavior and Training

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Communicating With Your Dog

Communication between dogs and humans doesn’t have to be a completely foreign thing. In fact, dogs can understand certain types of body language and eye contact as well as about three tones of voice. Understanding what to use when can be very helpful when training your dog.

Your tone of voice can be a very powerful tool. High-pitched and excitable tones tend to remind dogs of their litter mates. As such, this tone of voice makes the dog think that you are an equal, as is often the case with children. Nevertheless, this tone can be very useful when you’re trying to motivate your dog to do something, such as come to you. Matter-of-fact and calm tones are similar to a bark and are good when giving commands. Lowered tones are good when you want you dog to stop what he is doing, such as chewing your shoe, as they tend to sound similar to a mother dog’s growl.

Direct eye contact can mean a couple of things to your dog. Sometimes it can be a loving look, other times it can be combined with a reprimand such as ‘No’ or ‘Off’ to show that you’re serious. Dogs will interpret your body language whether you’re aware of it or not. A dog may appear frightened or threatened simply because you’re much bigger than him, move quickly toward him, or bend over him. If you want to encourage your dog to come to you, make yourself non-threatening by lowering to his level, encouraging him with a treat and, of course, praising him when he responds appropriately.

Hitting, grabbing or striking your dog is not a form of communication that they understand, at least not as it may be intended. Instead, dogs usually learn to fear and mistrust you. Using your body language, eye contact and your tone of voice can prove far more effective.