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Using Body Language to Train Your Dog

By Linda Cole

Dogs know how we feel by our body language, tone of voice and expression on our face. They read us much better than most dog owners understand how to read them. It’s not difficult to understand what a dog is saying, and we can use their knowledge of body language to help us interact with them better. We can also use it when we are training a dog.

In the dog’s world, every movement, growl and gesture has a meaning. It can cause negative or positive reactions and be subtle or plain to see. They watch us like a hawk and interpret what we want by paying attention to us. The way we approach a dog, react to an aggressive dog, or interact with them while training can be better accomplished using their method of communication. When you send the appropriate message using body language, it can help you when meeting an unfamiliar dog and help you control your own dog.

Leaning forward into a submissive dog and moving your hand down towards the head will likely trigger a negative reaction that causes the dog to urinate. He reads your body language as dominant and is intimidated by you. But if you approach the same dog, crouch down next to him and bring your hand from his chest up to the head, you’ll get a much different reaction. When you crouch down next to a submissive dog, your body language is positive and nonthreatening. We naturally want to pet a dog on the head, but it’s better to stroke the chest of a dog showing submissive or dominant body language to avoid intimidating them.

One of the hardest commands to teach a dog is to come (recall). I’ve had dogs that refused to come, even for a treat. Instead of begging and yelling at your dog to come, turn your back and crouch down. You’ve shown him with your body language you’re not a threat and he’s not in trouble. He sees you as being calm and nonthreatening. You’ve given him an invitation to join you and most dogs will respond to your gesture. When he comes to you, give him a treat he loves, such as CANIDAE TidNips.

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