Dog’s Eye View: The language of dogs
August 11, 2017
Dogs communicate in many different ways. They use their eyes; they blink, squint, hold them wide open and round. They wag their tails and hold them at different levels — straight up, straight out, slightly bent, down low and tucked under among many other postures.
Their fur can stand straight up on their back. They can hold their ears in a variety of ways such as forward, folded backward or erect. Dogs bark.
Dogs can bark or vocalize in many different ways to express their need or intention. Listen carefully, and you may hear your dog say many different things. "There's someone at the door" "There's someone new in the neighborhood." "I'm lonely." "Let's play." "Let me out." "Stay away from me." "I'm hurt." "I'm scared."
We dog owners sometimes view barking as a nuisance when we feel we cannot predict it or control it. We may get warnings from our neighbors if our dog barks when we are gone from our home, and they are outside. Some dogs bark because of boredom, loneliness or excitement when they are alone in a yard.
An elderly gentleman once asked me how to break his beloved pet Dachshund, Fritz, from barking when he put him in the yard. He said he wanted Fritz to get fresh air. The whole time Fritz stood and barked at the back door.
I simply suggested that Fritz might just want to be with him, not alone in the yard. He reported to me later that Fritz didn't bark outside anymore.
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Sometimes, we want it both ways. We want our dog to "alarm bark" if there is a prowler outside, but we don't want him to bark at every passing person.
When my dog barks at someone or something outside, I go to him and look at what he's barking at and say, "OK, that's enough." I guide him away and redirect him to lie down by me.
My rule is that only a few barks are allowed. The point is to let him know that barking is fine as an alert (Isn't that what we want?) but that's where his responsibility ends. I am in charge at that point.
Sometimes, we encourage our buddy to bark and act up when we feel like playing but get grumpy when we want to watch TV or read a book, and he wants to initiate our rough housing noisy play time. I start the game and play but have a "that's all" cue when I want the game to end.
I might then give him a tasty bone or chew toy so that he can settle down and relax. We need to be particular about what we would like him to do. We need to teach him the rules of the game.
Dogs are social animals and are communicating with us in many ways. It's fun for us to learn their language. It really is a two-way conversation.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training, LLC with over 30 years of experience.