Robin and I were at a Dog Guard Out of Sight Dog Fence installation in Naples last week when a prior dog fence client in Bonita Springs called us with a question. She said that the question wasn’t about the underground perimeter fence. That was working out great and their Chesapeake Bay Retriever was staying in the yard and not chasing the ducks into the lake. Her problem was that Arthur was not paying attention to them any time else. She knew we were also professional dog trainers and wanted our opinion on what they were doing wrong. They were only about fifteen minutes away from where we were installing the dog fence and I told her I would stop buy when I took a break from the install.
When I arrived at their home, I heard family members yelling at Arthur to get off the sofa. Some were yelling “off”, some were yelling “down”, others were saying “no”, and some were yelling things I can’t write on this blog. Others were jumping up and down and trying to chase him off the sofa. I came into the house and Arthur still was standing on the sofa. I saw that the family was at their wits end, so I decided not to make fun of them over their “great canine communication success”.
Both dogs and humans communicate in much the same way. We use our body language and voices to tell others what we are thinking and what we want. We (humans) emphasize our voice in the form of a common, spoken language to communicate. After that, we enforce our spoken language with our body movements and gestures. We might say “No” or “You are bad” and cross our arms. Since we use a spoken language with synonyms, we can use multiple words to mean the same thing.
Dogs place a difference emphasis on their communication tools. Their most important tool is their body language. They use the posture and movement of their body to portray leadership or focused submission. When they use their voice (bark, growl, whimper, etc.), they all mean one thing and one thing only. To dogs, any audible or verbal sound is unique. This means that whenever they hear a particular sound; that means one thing and one thing only.
Now, let’s recreate that prior scene and try and understand what Arthur was experiencing. People were yelling, jumping, and running around him. He was hearing all sorts of sounds that he also heard at other times during the day. To Arthur, the body language of the jumping and running translated into adrenaline, play, and dominance. That told Arthur that they wanted to join in on his “king of the hill” on the sofa. He needed to maintain his position so that he could continue to win. All these different sounds that he was hearing were sounds that he heard the rest of the day with different outcomes (from his perspective) every time he heard them. Because of that, they were simply “white noise” and nothing he should be concerned over.
As you can see, as in the movie, Cool Hand Luke; “What we have here is failure to communicate”.
So what did I tell them?
- You must develop a unique correction sound that you will use whenever you want to tell Arthur he is doing something wrong. In essence, this will be his own, personal “No”. You must only use this sound to let him know that what he is doing right then is wrong. The purpose of making this sound is to have Arthur calmly look at you.
- You must be calm and still when correcting Arthur. You must also stand up straight. These are natural body language stances that show leadership and authority. If Arthur is going to obey you, you have to portray authority and determination.
- You must always be in control of the situation. If necessary, have Arthur wear a leash that you can easily pick up and use to guide him to get off the sofa, etc.
- Praise Arthur as soon as he is being a good boy.
- Never, ever hit, hurt, or scare Arthur. You are trying to teach him what is right and to have him see you as the leader. Scare tactics never work in teaching.
The last thing that I told them was not to over think anything. Dogs are wonderfully simple creatures, just like we were when we were babies. They see the world through simple, trusting eyes. As their caregivers and teachers, we need to encourage that while directing them in the right direction.
If you have any questions about how to communicate with your dog, any other doggie questions are popping into your head; or you want more information about Dog Guard Out of Sight Fences, please contact The Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers in Naples and South Florida. Don’t forget to visit our South Florida Dog Training Blog on our Home Dog Training of South Florida Web Location.