Ask the R+ Trainers

Ask the Trainers

The dog training industry is unregulated. Anyone can consider himself/herself a trainer. “Ask the R+ trainers” empowers the public with evidence and science based training tips.

in Davis, Winters, Woodland and West Sacramento.

Disclaimer: UTP does not endorse the participated trainers.

blue ribbon

= positive reinforcement
= reward based method

What do we need to make our dog(s) and us happy ?

Learn to read their body language and use effective, calm, clear and consistent communication.

We are verbal creatures and that is how we communicate. On the other hand, our dog(s) don’t use words, they rely mostly on their whole body to let us know how they feel and what they want. They use their ears, forehead, mouth, tongue, teeth, grimace, paws, tail, posture, belly and at times vocalization. While they can hear us and “understand”, it is our body language, facial expression, tone of voice and our demeanor that give them clues to how we feel and what we want from them. Dogs are amazing . While we communicate differently, it is a two-way communication. They leave us clues about what they want and how they feel and they read us to get clues about what we want and how we feel.

This communication though can be confused at times. When we give them unclear messages with our words, they focus on our body language for information. It is up to us to make sure we communicate calmly, clearly and consistently.

Dogs don’t understand “No”.

Most of us use “No” to communicate our disapproval of our dogs behavior. They know we are not happy from our body language because the word “No” does not give them the information they need to change their behavior as often they don’t even know what they did wrong. Effective communication is to let the dogs know what we want them to do instead. Ask for a Sit when the dogs jump and Leave it when they counter surf instead of “No”. Communicate what you want them to do instead. Effective communication does not require a loud, tough sounding authoritative voice. Let’s teach and not intimidate our dogs.

Dogs emote anxiety with their body.

Dogs use their body language to communicate different emotions. In order for us to understand them, we need to learn to read them just as they so intently and constantly try to read us. When they feel fear and anxiety, they lick their lips, keep their mouth tightly closed and yawn incessantly. Their ears might glue to the side of their head with their tucked tails. Extreme fear may lead to complete “shut down” and they either freeze or try to run away. Beware that a fearful dog can also quickly switch to being confrontational if he feels cornered or trapped. It is the Flight or Fight response.

Dogs need space. Help them!

When their efforts to ask for help fail, dogs may resort to a normal, natural but confrontational behavior to request people to stay away or give them space. Often the posturing (a stiff body, eyes wide with white showing, showing teeth, air snapping with tense mouth and wrinkled nose) and vocalizations (growling and barking) are communicated as warning signs for a perceived threat and rarely escalate into a bite. Reading a dog warning signal is important to prevent an escalation to a harmful behavior.

Dogs can be excited or stressed.

Dogs can communicate excitement. They can get excited when seeing something they like or something they dislike and their body language would be different depending on how they feel. The behaviors can range from a play bow, jump, tail wagging to lunging or barking to trembling.

Since dogs have a limited repertoire of body language, when they are anxious or stressed, they may exhibit fearful and excited signals simultaneously. They may pant, make themselves smaller and invisible by lowering their body stance, drool and shed heavily, pace, bark, whine, lunge, jump and bound off walls.

Dogs can be calm and happy.

While we don’t always recognize their stressed body language, most of us can detect and love to see our dogs relaxed. Their mouth is open, body is loose, ears are neutral, eyes are soft, tail wag from side to side with a butt wiggling. They don’t have a care in the world and everything is just fine.
Learning to build effective communication can help us enjoy a harmonious and fulfilling relationship with our dogs and they deserve nothing less.

From J. Chang CTC

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