Everyone knows the party game ‘Charades’ where body language is everything and word clues are a no-no.
Communicating with your dog is a bit like that, too. Word clues often fall on deaf ears. But all pooches understand hand and body gestures – it’s their native tongue, so to speak.
Serious body language training took flight in Finland in 2003 after an elite agility dog named Tekla suddenly turned deaf. Undaunted, her trainer continued to work with Tekla using physical cues only. The results were awesome and a business opportunity was born.
Today the Finland-based oneminddogs.com is one of the leading agility training sites around. Here are a few tips from them on speaking ‘whoof’ (our word, not theirs).
MOTION OVER VOICE:
While vocal cues are useful in training, your dog naturally responds first to body language. If you teach your dog to sit and lie down using words and accompanying hand gestures, and then you tell your dog to “sit” but use the gesture for “lie down,” your dog will lie down – following the gesture, not the word. Therefore, use your body language to really communicate meaningfully with your dog.”
“From a dog’s perspective, a large treat is no greater a reward than a small one. When training with large treats as rewards, your dog will become full and lose motivation more quickly. So treat often using small bits. The timing of when you treat is crucial, too. For example, if you reward your dog for sitting after she has already gotten up from the position, the next time she will naturally get up in anticipation of her reward.”
LEAD BY EXAMPLE:
“When dogs learn new skills, they automatically associate the emotion surrounding the experience with the skill itself – so if you’re having a bad day, it’s not the best day for a training session. If you approach the training session with a positive outlook, your dog will be enthusiastic about what you’re teaching him, both during the session and in the future. You’ll find that keeping an upbeat attitude will also lengthen your dog’s attention span for longer sessions.”