Tag Archives: Dog Whisperer

Whispering is not Enough, Learn to Talk Dog – They will love you for it!

All behaviors that dogs exhibit are designed to either access pleasurable situations or avoid and escape unpleasant situations.  A dog’s communication systems are much ritualized and designed to avoid or cutoff conflict. This has made dogs as a species very successful in terms of their numbers and their variety. Things go awry when we humans misread the signals dogs send us leaving them helpless to effectively communicate their feelings to us. We cannot know or understand what dogs think and vice-versa. What we can do is understand canine body language, observe them as we interact with them and then respond appropriately.  ‘Talking dog’ is simple if you remember a few important rules and it will make interacting with dogs fun and safe.  The dogs you come into contact with will really appreciate it.

The types of social behaviors dogs demonstrate can be broadly grouped into either distance decreasing or distance increasing.  A dog uses distance decreasing behaviors to promote approach, play and continued interaction.   A lumbering soft gait, relaxed body and a relaxed face indicate the dog is encouraging interaction. Dogs who want to engage in play will demonstrate the ‘play bow,’ a posture where the dog bows the front of his/her body so that the front legs are parallel to the ground while the hindquarters remain in the standing position, the dog may offer you a paw, lean into you or rub against you.

Distance increasing signals vary and can be easily misread. The distance increasing signals we all seem to ‘get’ are when a dog stands upright making  each part of their body appear as large as possible, weight on the front legs, upright tail, upright ears, piloerection (the hair on their back stands up), and the dog will bark or growl. We seem to instinctively react to these signals and take them as the warning they are.

The distance increasing signals that we commonly misinterpret are the more appeasing behaviors dogs demonstrate.  Dogs use these appeasement behaviors to make friendly encounters more reliable and to help them pacify what they anticipate to be a hostile encounter if escape is impossible for them. These behaviors are a nonaggressive way to ‘cut off’ conflict. When a dog displays these behaviors we have to recognize that this is the dog’s way of showing us that they are unsure and a little scared.

You may see appeasement signals in one of two ways.  Passive appeasement behaviors are easily misunderstood and are often labeled as ‘submissive.’  Dogs displaying passive appeasement will present themselves in a recumbent position exposing the underside of their body.  The dog’s ears are typically back and down against the head and the tail is often tucked between the upper legs.  Sometimes the dog will expel a small amount of urine while it waits for the attention to cease. The active appeasement dog is often incorrectly labeled as ‘excited’ or ‘overly friendly.’  They will often approach you with the whole rear-end wagging in a “U” shape allowing both its face and genital area to be inspected and they may be desperate to jump up and ‘get in your face’.

For humans then, it is important when meeting and greeting dogs to be able to recognize if a dog is friendly and wanting to greet you or if the dog is experiencing stress or fear. A conflicted dog will want to approach but is too scared or unsure of the outcome. Their body language will vacillate between displays of distance decreasing behaviors and distance increasing behaviors. Interacting with a dog that is conflicted can be risky. If you make a wrong move and the dog cannot avoid the approach then they may become aggressive.  This is often the case with a fear biter.  If a dog is demonstrating ambivalent, mixed signals then it is advisable to avoid sudden movements, and to allow the dog an escape route. Don’t force the meet and greet by moving toward the dog or having the dogs’ owner manipulate the dog toward you.

In general when you meet and greet a dog make sure you have a relaxed posture. Let the dog approach you, turn slightly to the side as this is less threatening for the dog than you standing in a full frontal position leaning over them.  Always ask permission from the dog’s owner to pet their dog. Talk gently to the dog without making eye contact.  It helps to crouch down and keep your hands by your side without making any sudden movements. When you have determined the dog is not showing any signs of stress or fear and their body language is relaxed and happy then you can slowly move your hand under their chin to stroke them. If the dog is showing passive appeasement signals, as described above, then step away, give them space and allow them to approach you on their terms and in their preferred timing.

It is important that we recognize a dog’s “cut off’ behaviors.  ‘Cut off’ behaviors are designed to cut off the social contact. If, when greeting a dog, you don’t recognize that the dog is  scared or stressed or you choose to ignore the dog’s communication and push forward with your approach you  are unfairly pushing the dog into a situation where it may only be left with one option and not a favorable option to either dog or human.

Dogs will typically give plenty of warning if they are uncomfortable with something that another dog or a person is doing.   These warning signs may include a direct stare, a rigid body, a growl and showing “whale eye” (flashing the whites of their eyes). The dog’s ears will be flat against the head and they may have a closed tense mouth, if you see any of these signals then stop what you are doing immediately and allow the dog to slowly back away.

Dogs are wonderful animals that love and need to be a part of our social lives.  But, like people, their personalities range from being social butterflies to wallflowers. Tailor your approach and greeting style based on the communication they are giving you. Dogs are very clear with their intentions and emotions and respond appropriately to ours.  Remember our body language and approach speaks louder than our words to a dog.

Niki Tudge is the owner and founder of The DogSmith, America’s Dog Training, Dog Walking and Pet Care Franchise.

Niki Tudge CPDT-KA, E-Nadoi, CBC, AABP- PDT, DIP. ABT,

Pet Care Services CPCT, CAPCT,

AKC “CGC” Evaluator

You can reach Niki via email at NikiTudge@DogSmith.com or www.DogSmith.com

To learn more about joining the DogSmith visit http://www.DogSmithFranchise.com


Professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Analyst – How To Become A Pet Care Provider

Join The DogSmith® Team and become:

A Professional Dog Trainer & Behavior Analyst, plus the skills to be:

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  • A Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers
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How to Become a Dog Trainer and Make Your Passion Your Profession

There are fewer careers that I can name that free you from the office cubicle while providing virtually unlimited potential for personal fulfillment and professional achievement than Dog Training and Pet Care. Dog Training and Pet Care is a field that will constantly challenge you intellectually and can provide you the opportunity to create a truly balanced joyous life.
Once you’ve determined that you want to be a professional dog trainer you need to do some research to find out the pros and cons of the various training philosophies and methodologies currently used. Dog Training methods and philosophies vary from trainer to trainer and school to school. Training philosophies go from the outdated and disproved “Alpha Roll” type coercive methods to the scientific based methods derived from modern studies of Learning Theory and Behavior. You can research various training philosophies and the current methods by visiting the following websites:

http://www.nadoi.org/ The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors was founded in 1965 to promote modern, humane training methods and at the same time elevate the standards of the profession. NADOI is not only the oldest group of its kind in the world, it is the only professional organization to require that all applicants demonstrate proficiency in their craft, as tested and measured by their peers, before membership is granted. NADOI members are found all across the USA and in many foreign countries.

http://www.ccpdt.org/ The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is an international testing and certification program for professional pet dog trainers. The CCPDT’s certification program is based on humane training practices and the latest scientific knowledge related to dog training. Competence and continued growth in training practices is promoted through the recertification of qualified professionals.

http://www.apdt.com/ The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) is a professional organization of individual dog trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education. The APDT offers individual pet dog trainers a respected and concerted voice in the dog world by promoting professional trainers to the veterinary profession and to increase public awareness of dog friendly training techniques.

http://www.888dogsmith.com/ The DogSmith exists to enhance the lives of pets and their owners by improving their relationship and the quality of the life they share, through providing professional support and training to pet dog owners, supporting and assisting humane societies, animal shelters and rescue organizations to minimize the number of unwanted animals and offering affordable and professional care to family pets so that pet ownership is never a burden.

Once you’ve done your research on training methods and philosophies you will need to decide if you want to learn in a concentrated full time program or if you want to learn and gain experience part time. You can gather the necessary skills by a combination of self study academics with extensive practical experience working for another trainer whose methods you respect or would you prefer to attend formal training through an established curriculum. There is no degree required to become a dog trainer, but you should attain both “book knowledge” and hands-on experience before offering your services to the public. Read books, attend seminars, watch DVDs. Get as much practical experience as possible by mentoring under another trainer and volunteering to work at your local shelter or with rescue groups. Shelter/rescue work is a great way to get practical experience with dogs of various breeds and temperament.
Don’t forget though that most of a professional dog trainer’s work involves training other people how to train and communicate with their dog. Consider whether you enjoy working with people as well as dogs. Many people get into the profession of dog training without realizing that what dog trainers do is really to train people to train dogs. You must have patience and empathy, and be as good coaching your human clients (lots of positive reinforcement!) as you are with your dogs.

Finally, is your goal to work for another training school in an established business or is your dream to start your own training and pet care business? One of the great possibilities of starting your own dog training business is that you can work out of your own home so start up costs are minimal. If you plan to start your own business you can be a sole entity or part of a franchise system.
You will probably start out by training part-time while working another job. Whether you can make a living as a full-time trainer depends on how many classes/sessions you are able to schedule in a week, how much demand there is for trainers in your geographic area, and whether you offer other additional services such as boarding, board-and-train or other pet care services.
And there is plenty of room to specialize if your interests are agility competition, obedience, rally, fly ball, assistance dogs or simply pet dogs. And don’t forget the growing interest in training cats, birds, horses, donkeys or any of the animals found more and more frequently on “hobby” farms around the country.

The challenges are endless as is the learning. But if you have the burning desire to work with animals and if you love meeting new people, analyzing problems and developing programs that may keep a dog from being given up to a shelter then you have what it takes to become a successful professional dog trainer.