"The Peeing Post"
Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature
Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen
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It's Mogens again. In this issue, I would like to address some important topics around communication. In order for you to get the best possible relationship developed with your dog, you have to communicate effectively with it. You probably already know that dogs cannot learn to bark understandably in English - but they can learn to respond to certain words and phrases - and they most certainly show strong responses to our body language, voice, gestures, movements, etc. - not to forget the smell of your body!
Let's discuss the last one first. As I covered earlier, dogs have an incredibly sensitive nose. They can smell extremely small concentrations of an enormous variety of organic molecules and gasses in the air - and, just as many of these chemicals are partially discharged through the urine, many of them are also discharged through your sweat, and some even from direct evaporation through the skin (garlic, for instance...). These chemicals will vary in accordance with the overall chemistry of your blood. And the specific composition of chemicals in your blood will vary with a whole bunch of parameters that all determine how your body functions and how you feel.
A good question now is, "How much of this can your dog smell?" and: "How much does my dog actually know about me?"
Well, really good questions don't have exact answers - but they make you think. The fact is that we do not know the answers to these questions. Even the sharpest chemist (like myself... hmmm) would need a billion dollar budget to just research a very small fraction of this. But it remains beyond any possible and reasonable doubt that your dog will get a lot of information about you and your body functions and your mood, simply from the way you smell.... The good news is that the dog does not hold it against you and it does not tell anybody else. The bad news is that you cannot lie to your dog about how you feel... but, seriously, why would you want to do that, given the good news?
If you want to make your dog believe that you feel great, you have to feel great. If you want it to believe that you are mad, you better be mad. Any problems with this? For most people, this is very difficult to manage, because we are so used to constantly lying, especially about our emotions.
"How are you today?" - "Fine, thanks", even if you feel crappy - right?
And your anger? Can you tell the policeman that stopped you for speeding what you really feel about him and his job? Well, I don't suggest you try! You will not like the consequences...
But remember, your dog does not understand English. I know, a lot of people claim things like "my dog understands everything I say". Well, if your conversation with your dog is mainly about expressing your own emotions, this might very well be true - but it is not because of the language you use. You could speak Chinese, and the result would be the same. The dog does not judge you on your words. It takes the information from your body language, your tone of voice, and the smell of your body that changes instantly with your mood changes.
In fact, we humans do the same. We do not pay much attention to words. A very famous study was actually done about this some time ago. The results were that when humans receive a message from another person, we pick 55% of our information from the body language, 38% from the tone of voice, and only 7% from the choice of words... Now, these numbers must, of course, vary with the kind of message we want to convey. I don't believe anybody can communicate complex quantum chemistry mainly with body language... But for daily, social conversations and day-to-day interaction, I do believe the numbers represent the truth fairly accurately.
For your daily communication with your dog, this means that you could, in principle and in reality, carry on all conversations by simply saying "bla-bla-bla" and nothing else! Just as your dog can only bark... Barking is barking, right? Not! If you pay attention to the way your dog barks, you can hear all kinds of different messages in those different types of barking. Just try, for the fun of it, to find out how many different kinds of emotions you can express with nothing but "bla-bla-bla" coming across your lips! You will be amazed. Joy? Fear? Anger? Ignorance? Love? Passion? Curiosity? Politeness? Threat? Insecurity?
This is no joke - it is actually a homework assignment! Go ahead and try - and notice what you actually do with your voice and your body when you try to make "bla-bla-bla" take on all those different meanings. The thing is that your dog will understand you to a degree that will surprise you...
When you start working with this in your communication with your dog, you will discover a world of interaction that is very, very rich. In many ways, much richer than our common language, because it taps into an important realm our language does not cover very well at all: our emotions...
So, be honest to your dog! You might as well - because it won't take your lies for what you want them to be... In return, you can bet your last shirt that your dog will never lie to you either. It will always be completely honest in the way it expresses its emotions to you. You just have to receive the messages in the body signals, facial expressions, and sounds it makes. Yes, it would be nice if you could add smell to this, but you can't - a human nose just does not do the job. But because the dog will generally use several simultaneous ways to convey the same message, chances are that your senses will get enough information to make sense out of its messages - if you pay attention.
To tell you the truth, this is one of my major reasons for me loving dogs. And I sincerely believe humans could benefit from the lessons we can learn from the way dogs communicate.
Cheers and woof,
If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!
You can reach me by simply clicking on the peeing dog to the right. --->
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PS. If you want a quick, yet thorough and easy-to-understand overview of the ways dogs communicate, I can strongly recommend Anders Hallgren's book "The ABC's of Dog Language". That little book has helped literally thousands of people improve their communication skills and vastly improve their relationship with their dogs as a result of understanding what their dog is telling them - and how they can respond appropriately. I translated it from Swedish and have been using it extensively in my training classes.
You can order the book on-line from http://k9joy.com/ABCsOfDogLanguage. You get a full year money-back guarantee, and there has never been a single request for a return or refund...
So, go there and get your ABC's!