Many years ago dogs were considered as domestic animals for their functional value; hunting assistants, village and stock guards, even body-warmers in bitter cold climates. These basic functions are no longer required by our culture and, the dog’s capacity to cooperate within a group for the common welfare of its members is suppressed. Without some meaningful functional nourishing, dogs grow older, mature physically, but act like puppies emotionally – looking for attention and care, totally frustrated, denied any competent guidance toward filling an acceptable role in the family.
From the human side of view, as we become more and more dependent on verbal skills and electronic communications, a pet animal is sometimes our only significant daily contact with the animate, natural world. However, without an opportunity to develop gestural communications with animals, dog owners are using human verbal and physical abilities (spoken commands, lecturing, handling, force, punishment) to communicate with their pets. Most people mistakenly think that dogs must simply be “trained” if they are to learn how to behave properly. If the training fails, both owner and dog become frustrated, and problems develop. While deliberate training is an important element in a substantial relationship, informal training is at the root of most behavior problems..
Dogs study from, and respond to, the way people behave. Movement, posture and sound communicate with dogs. On the other hand, as dogs are trying to communicate with people through their own movements, stances and sounds, they are too frequently misinterpreted; or ignored. This just extends the frustrating communications gap for both parties.
It may seem implausible to propose that behavior consultants should help dog owners learn how to translate their pet’s behavior, then use movement, posture and particular sounds, in order to communicate effectively, and hence, live together harmoniously. However, it is not impossible at all. Once the fundamentals of effective human/canine communications are learned and used, they play an essential role in adjusting behavior problems humanely and effectively.
It doesn’t occur to most dog owners that yelling at a barking dog is, in fact, joining in the racket – reacting with the human variation of the same behavior. When their dogs do become silent, it is because they associate the owner’s tone of voice with disapproval and/or fear of impending pain from punishment. Excitable types, or those with some prior traumatic experience, usually become worse.
In the non-verbal world of dogs, silence means quiet, inactivity generates stillness, and movement causes activity. The fact that this patently obvious facet of non-verbal communication must be written or talked about to gain attention among dog owners further points up the extreme verbal orientation of humans. Spoken language is just noise to dogs. It is a tribute to their adaptability that they actually learn the meaning of certain key sounds, which usually comes about through a combination of the dog’s intelligence and the owner’s almost accidental consistency when referring to certain events or objects.