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Your Dog is Trying to Tell you Something – Are you Listening?


“Do you want to go for a walk?”

How many times have you asked your dog that question? How many times has your dog answered you? Well, you might be surprised to learn that your dog’s excited response to hearing your tone of voice could represent more than mere anticipation. That enthusiastically wagging tail might just be a signal that your dog wants to tell you what’s on his or her mind—and in the heart. With every interac-tion the two of you share, your dog’s overt displays conceal the need to connect with you in a language that remains somewhat obscure to most. It’s likely that your dog even has opinions that are being expressed in a voice you’re not quite ready to hear. Maybe, just maybe, your dog wants you to listen.


Some people still seem to think that in order to effectively interact with a dog, a command must be given. After all, telling a dog to “sit” or “stay” is a reliable way to demonstrate a dog’s ability to understand—and obey. This “call and response” form of communication is well-known for getting things done, but it’s clearly one-sided. Although giving direction can be effective in the context of a field trial or policework (and a clearly uttered Back! or Gib Laut! can cer-tainly deliver results), it does little to develop a more innate connection between dog and handler. By contrast, the use of complete sentences, spoken and unspoken, encourages a deeper dialog that can yield results far greater than a high score for the perfect performance. Conversations that encourage quiet listening are rife with possibility for transforming mundane exercises into meaningful exchanges. They can even turn common commands into miraculous messages. When communication is instinctive, the human/canine bond can be transformed in unimaginable ways through the language of intuition.


The dialog used by conformation exhibitors can be as restrictive as a wire crate with a raised floor. With so much emphasis put on side gait, side-view pro-files, and sideways glances, there seems little need for conversation that encour-ages anything less than the pursuit of the perfect free-stack. Show dogs, however, are more than the sum of their parts and pieces, or personalities, and they’re far more than their size, proportion, and substance might suggest. Every show dog, from the tiniest Toy to the most massive of Mastiffs, communicates with its handler in a viscer-al vocabulary that often goes unnoticed by the person holding the lead. In the ring, however, the show lead acts as a conduit through which messages are sent back and forth. Most exhibitors readily acknowl-edge that this transfer of energy takes place, though few seem to understand how fundamental the exchange is to how dogs communicate. When it appears that a dog is “asking for the win,” the dog is, in fact, actually asking for the win. Or at the very least, the dog is telling the handler the kinds of secrets that are shared between close friends and trusted confidantes.


Almost every exhibitor has the capacity to “hear” dogs at a dog show. (Indoor grooming areas can get downright cacoph-onous at times.) However, the ability to really “listen” to the messages contained in every bark and every howl is an entirely different practice. Whereas hearing is the passive process of perceiving sound, listening requires something akin to creativity in the form of intention, intuition, and imagination. These three characteristics are shared by everyone, even the hearing-impaired, and by engaging them it can become possible to communicate in a transparent language that cannot be translated by those who refuse to listen. Unlike hearing, listening doesn’t require any sound to be heard. In fact, listening doesn’t even require ears. When creativity is introduced into a conversation, the eyes have the ability to listen, and so too does the heart (as anyone who’s ever been in love can attest). It’s this language of love, in its purest form, that connects dog and handler, allowing communication to take place in absolute silence. Dogs know how to do this instinctively, and so do many dog show exhibitors who engage their canine companions with a litany of non-verbal cues in the ring. When a show dog appears to “ask for” the win, rest assured that it does so thanks to the encourage-ment it has received from an intuitive han-dler who has learned how to listen.

If actions speak louder than words, intentions have the ability to sound louder than words. By practicing a more imaginative dialog with your dog, you might be able to listen in ways you’ve never thought possible. So, the next time you ask your dog to join you for a walk… pause and listen. Maybe your dog is trying to tell you something.

Your Dog is Trying to Tell you Something – Are you Listening?
By: Dan Sayers