“Speak!” you say to your pup. “Arf!” your pup says in return. Though it is a nice trick, you and your pup are separated by the all-powerful “speech” barrier. You cannot understand what they bark, and they don’t really understand human speech. So what does your pup react to? The answer is quite simple- body language. It is universal throughout the world amongst any country. Communicating by using gestures and body movements provides us with ways to break the speech barrier.
The way you move
Have you ever noticed that an unfamiliar pup will cower when approached? Perhaps it is because of the way you move as you go through the motions. In a dog’s body language, standing above another pup can often be a sign of suppression. Though this is not what you mean, it is how your pup interprets it. Try instead to approach your pup at an eye level. You may look a little funny in public, but sitting and crouching down on their level is a great way to start a conversation with a pup.
Something you may keep in mind is that eye contact is not to be taken lightly. In a pup’s world, eye contact is commonly an aggressive sign and may insinuate fear or aggression in your pup over time.
Open arms and hands are symbolic throughout the world- and your pup’s as well. This stance tells your pup that they are allowed in your comfort zone. Direction can also affect a pup’s neutrality. From the front or back can show signs of aggression as they may believe that you are preparing for an attack. Their sides are the most neutral direction to approach from as they can see you clearly.
The sound of a voice
It is not just the words you speak to your pup, but how you say them. When you are angry, your voice shows it. When you are happy or neutral, the sound of your voice will reflect your emotions. When you talk to your pup, try to do it in a calm and cool way- like the Fonz. During training, do not let your voice reflect anger or frustration- but sternness. Letting you pup know that you are in charge is different from punishing them verbally. Your voice is a key element in communicating with your pup. Even though the words may be simple gibberish to them, the sound and familiarity are enforced by the way you express them as you speak.
Your pup’s body language
The way your pup moves is just as important as the way you move. As an owner, you need to recognize such things as circling, trepidation, and aggression. These signs are somewhat unique to each pup, but you will soon learn by communicating with your pup.
Circling, scratching and sniffing are telltale signs of potty time- or interest. If your pup is afraid, commonly they will look away and their tail (unless your pup has a nub) will drop between their legs. Sometimes, if pressured enough, a pup will begin to show aggression. Growling, barking and snapping are only the physical outcome. Before they attack, a pup will often curl their lips up, and lay their ears flat. This would definitely be your cue to step in or step away. With enough contact with your pup, you will get to know them on a more intimate level and they will display even more characteristics.