How to Communicate with a Dog

July 9, 2008

Dog Trainer Diane Canafax says many people intimidate dogs without even knowing it.

  1. The mistakes made are natural to the way people communicate face-to-face; however, canines, which are ventrally oriented, communicate with body language.
  2. For example, when people meet they look each other in the eye and shake hands or embrace. People take this same approach to meeting dogs, often leaning over to pet them, trying to show affection.
  3. “When you watch dogs, they approach each other from the side or back,” she said. “Direct eye contact is a challenge to them. When a dog leans forward they are insinuating an attack.”

The best way to approach a dog is to turn to the side with a hand outstretched and let the dog approach you, she said.

Physical differences also play into how dogs communicate.

  • Canines, which are more than four times as sensitive to sound than people are, can hear 80 feet away. People on average can only hear at a 20-foot radius, she said.
  • Canafax said when a dog doesn’t respond right away it could be tuning in to something outside of peoples’ hearing range.
  • Because of this yelling at a dog can lead to fear, while a whisper or high pitched “baby-talk” can insight a playful will-do attitude.

Sometimes Canafax will even put her forearms on the ground, copying her dogs “play bow” to get him to come.

“I use it as recall and communicate on their level,” she said. “It works beautifully.”


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