Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could learn to speak dog with one of your favorite language apps? It doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon.
Dogs have done their best to adjust to our world, learn our human way of communicating, and speak their needs to us despite our language barrier.
Here are five things you can try saying to your dog today:
Hello! How are you?
When you take your dog to the park and she meets another friendly dog, what is the first thing they do, right before they dive deep into the butt sniff? They sniff noses!
Take caution when putting your face close to a dog you do not know to avoid a possible bite risk.
For your own dog, who knows you well, when she greets you in the morning or when you get home, and she starts sniffing you, feel free to sniff her back, nose to nose!
It’s a dog’s way of saying, “I’m happy to see you and I trust you enough to get close to you. Let me sniff you so I can find out where you’ve been!”
Look at this!
Some dogs can learn to follow a pointed finger, but most can understand when you point with your eyes. Slyly place a treat nearby when your dog is not looking, then make eye contact with her. Look at her, look at the treat – repeat. See if you can guide her to it without using any words or other body language.
Play with me!
Dogs invite one another to play in a few ways – they take on the butt-in-the-air stance, front paws smacking the ground. They may snort, make laugh-like huffing sounds, run towards and you hop away. Imitate any of these gestures to encourage your dog to play, especially if she’s stressed out.
Let’s go to sleep!
Yawns are infectious, even between members of different species. If your dog is hyper around bedtime, see if you can get them ready to relax by yawning and stroking them slowly.
Dogs use social referencing to help them decide whether they should be afraid of something. In a small experiment, researchers attached green plastic streamers to tabletop fans to make them noisy and scary. Some of the dogs were paired with strangers, others, with their owners.
The human partners would wait for their dog to look at them, then they reacted to the fan, either saying, “That’s scary!” or “That’s lovely!” while smiling or with a fearful facial expression.
Dogs paired with their owners were much more likely to look to their human for help to decide how to feel about the fan. Those whose humans had a positive reaction were more likely to approach the fan.
In short, dogs look to us to decide how to feel about scary things.
When the loud garbage truck comes in the morning to clank the dumpsters around, I throw food all over the place and say, “garbage truck!! Party time!!”
I don’t even have to throw food anymore to get my dogs excited about garbage truck time. It’s no longer PANIC truck time. It’s fantastic to skip the hysterical barking that we used to have twice weekly at 6 AM.