Posted by: Linda Trunell | May 7, 2013

My Favorite Training Tips #7 & #8

Continuing “My Top Ten Favorite Training Tips” …

#7.  “Nothing in life is free” is a great philosophy.

From “Dominance and Dog Training” by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)

“Fortunately, many trainers and behavior professionals now present concepts that focus on building a caring and happy relationship with your dog, instead of relying on dominance. Some trainers refer to the term “leadership” or other similar terms that are less adversarial than “dominance” or “Alpha.” What these trainers have in common is a desire to explain effective, non-confrontational and humane ways of living successfully with dogs. These educated approaches aim to strengthen the bond between the owner and the dog and teach owners more effective ways of communicating with another species. For dogs with behavior problems, trainers employ programs such as “Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF)”  which works along the principal that the dog must “do” something to earn what  he wants (i.e. sit to get dinner, walk on a loose leash to move forward, etc.) These programs are effective because the dog is issued a structured set of rules that are consistently reinforced and the dog learns what he needs to do in order to get the things that he wants such as food, petting, playtime, etc. Because dogs do not have the power of human speech and language, behavior problems and anxiety can result when they are left to fend for themselves in deciding how to live in our world without guidance that makes sense. Just like with people, we behave better and thrive in a world that “makes sense” to us and has a clear structure.”

This is not about being dominant over your dog – it is about teaching your dog self-control.

Bernadett Miklosi

Photo by Bernadett Miklosi

#8. Your dog pays more attention to your body language than you realize.

Dogs communicate a great deal to each other through body language so it is only natural that they would pay attention to ours.  Because they share our homes and daily lives they are more in tune with our body language than any other animal.

Dogs will follow our gaze so they see we are looking at the leash before we walk towards it.  You may think your dog is reading your mind and knows what you are going to do. They are just excellent observers of our body language. Dogs will look where you are looking and pointing instead of looking at your finger! In puppy class the pups always respond more to the hand signals before they learn to respond to just the verbal cues because the words have to be learned through repetition but they follow our body language instinctively.

We should be aware of this fact and be sure not to send mixed signals by saying one thing with our words but sending a different message with our body.  An example would be approaching a strange dog straight on and looking in his eyes and reaching your hand over his head.  Even if you are saying nice words in a soft tone – your body is very threatening.  You should turn sideways and lower your body, do not look directly at the dog and do not reach over him.  Wait for the dog to move towards you and sniff your hand if he is comfortable and then you can gently pet him under his chin.

People say their dog knows they did something wrong because they look guilty.  It is more likely that they are responding to your body language with appeasement behavior because you are showing that you are upset or angry.

If you would like to read more about a study on how dogs read human body language go here

Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,



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