More friendly thoughts on how to create a positive experience with your pooch in this week’s Dog Walker Diaries
By Lindsay Shostal
I make a conscience decisions everyday with dogs. How I look at them, how I touch them, how I handle them. I generally have little to no patience in my human life, but with the dogs, I am aware of how my body language, tone of voice and my touch effects their mood and behavior.
It’s easy to lose your shit on your dog. I’ll be the first to admit this. But what I have learned, is the calmer you remain, the softer your touch, the better they respond. Dogs don’t rationalize the same as humans do, so don’t treat them like they do.
A few days ago, I watched a (very) frustrated dog owner try to leash their dog after a run at the dog park. The more frustrated the owner got, the more anxious the dog got, darting from one end of the park to the other. The owner was trying to corral the dog while he darted away, even faster. You could see from a distance, the angrier the owner got, the quicker the dog moved away, we’ve all experienced this.
Funny enough, I never really have to call my dogs more than once to leave the park. I give them their cue phrase, “Let’s Go!,” and they confidently walk toward the gates. The dogs I look after regularly know my cue words and phrases and respond quickly. But there are a few other things that bring the dogs to me (and it’s not my milkshake). It’s not magic. And no, I’m not the dog whisperer.
• I remain calm. Even if I get a straggler who doesn’t seem to want to follow the group heading towards me.
• I ALWAYS have liver treats on me. I ALWAYS reward the dogs when they follow me and they know this. If they come to me, even if it’s to ‘check-in’ at the dog park, I reward them with a liver treat. Dogs learn quickly and they quickly figure out who the source of the yummy treats is.
• If I have a dog who doesn’t get the drill I will calmly approach them (treats in hand), making no eye contact (dogs rarely look directly into each other’s eyes because this is considered threatening behavior), and clip them on the leash. I won’t call them a million times, get angry, or go running after them. That never works!
Having a very high anxiety Doberman has taught me how to take a deep breath and relax. Communication is a huge part of successful and happy dog ownership. So next time you’re at the dog park, stand back and really watch the body language of the dogs around you. While a dog’s body language can be subtle, when you pay attention, you can learn to recognize and interpret the most important meanings. The social circles that form, the ways dogs are able to communicate through different tones of barks and whines, the eyes, mouth, ears and tails tell a lot about a dog’s emotions and behavior.