Communicating with dogs requires more than words


This is the final article of our series on the cornerstones of training; respect, maintenance, balance and communication.

To view previous articles, use the following links:




Today we will discuss the final cornerstone, communication.

Communicating with your dog is obviously very important. How can we expect a dog to carry out our commands if they don’t understand or didn’t hear the command? But it goes even deeper than that.

With dogs a lot of communication is done with body language. For instance: Have you ever been angry at your dog and tried to alter your tone, talking sweet or excited to get them to come to you? Did it work? Likely, not.

Dogs are very good at reading body language and respond accordingly.

Communication starts with teaching. You need to teach the dog what your words, whistles, and body language mean. For example, saying sit, blowing a single whistle toot, and putting your hand out in a stop gesture are all ways we teach our client’s dogs to sit.

Dogs are also very perceptive. They quickly learn our routines and habits. Therefore, as trainers, we need to be conscious not only of what we say, but how we say it and how we are acting and presenting ourselves. I believe that dogs are so perceptive that I don’t even like wearing sunglasses when training, especially when doing yard work. I want the dog to look in my eyes as I look into hers.

Lastly, while training your dog you need to be consistent in your commands and body language (movement) so you are communicating exactly what you want. Think of you and your dog as a team and you are the coach.

Next article we will start 10 tips for ultimate retriever training. Until then happy retrieving.

Steve Smith