Yet again I have my annual case of Bronchitis which always reminds me of the importance of non-verbal communication with dogs and children. This morning I worked with my dogs as I do every morning on basic commands and I was very pleased that they have all mastered hand signals. I have no voice so my only option was my hands and using touch for attention. My dogs did superb.
I often tell my clients that if your dogs are not listening to you perhaps you are talking too much. Often times we extend a dialogue with our dogs that confuses them. For example “Sit oh what a good sit you are such a wonderful dog look at that sit”. Then the dog gets up and the owner says “oh no sit you really need to sit I did not ask you to get up.” At this point the dog is so confused that they start offering behaviors. Do you want me to sit? Do you want a hand shake? Do you want me to rollover? Parents often do the same thing with children. “Did you do your homework because you know it is really important that you finish that before you play your video games now you need to finish it right now”? For the most part the child heard “blah blah blah blah blah homework”.
I believe in the power of words but I think often times we can say what we mean with more power if we use less words or no words at all. This morning I had our dogs sit before breakfast, I held up my fist which is the sit signal they have learned and they sat. Their reward was the food and they were happy. I pointed to the ground for a down and down they went. I tapped one of our dogs lightly on the shoulder when he missed the cue, gave it again and BINGO he got it. So if you are having trouble with your dogs or kids following directions I don’t suggest catching Bronchitis but I do suggest trying to use nonverbal cues for one day. Of course it is much harder when you can speak, but try. You may be surprised by what you learn and how much more you accomplish with both children and pets.