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8 Things You Didn't Know About How to Talk to Your Dog

How to Have a "Proper" Conversation With Your Dog

By Sandy Robins . November 14, 2013 | See Comments

Little Girl Laying In The Grass Whispering In Her Dog's Ear

Dogs are highly intelligent animals that can seem to understand a lot about us humans. However, our dogs perceive the things we say, how we say them, and the things we do differently than you probably think. Learn everything you need to know here on how to talk to your dog the right way.

There’s no question that dogs have a pretty good understanding of us humans. In fact, according to canine researcher Stanley Coren, PhD, of the University of British Columbia and author of the book How to Speak Dog, the average dog understands about 150 words and has the mental abilities akin to a child between the ages of two and two-and-a-half-years old.

But addressing dogs using words they understand is only half of the communication process. With dogs, our physical gestures and how they are perceived is more important than what we actually say. Learn here how to talk to your dog.

8 Tip for Conversing with a Dog

1. A Hands-Off Approach: When humans greet one another for the first time, we look each other in the eyes and put out a hand to shake hands. We rely heavily on these visual cues as well as verbal ones to make a good first impression. In contrast, dogs view actions like sticking out your hand toward them as threatening and a disrespectful invasion of their personal space. When meeting for the first time, dogs expect you to stand still with your arms by your sides. Hugging or grabbing a dog that you don’t know well can be perceived as downright aggressive gesture.

2. The Hello Sniff: Dogs rely on their olfactory senses, which are more than a million times more finely tuned than ours. Scent is what guides a puppy before their eyes are even open to find their mother in order to eat. Dogs scent each other (all that butt-sniffing!) as a way of introducing themselves to other dogs. So it follows that the correct way for a human to introduce himself or herself to a dog is with a smelling “ritual” too. Let the dog sniff you while you stay still.

3. Stay Quiet at First: Humans often feel compelled to start a conversation and, further, conduct it in a manner in which they would talk to a baby – in a more high-pitched voice. Dogs don’t interpret this to be cute and loving. Instead, from their perspective, a high-pitched voice is a sign of weakness associated with prey and thus their response could be antagonistic.

4. Avoid Eye Contact: Another reason not to talk during an introduction is because you could inadvertently make eye contact. While making eye contact is socially acceptable between humans, dogs don't perceive it as a sign of trust. In fact, a human stare is seen as a sign of aggression.  

5. A Scratch Behind the Ears, Please: There are certain Asian cultures that consider patting someone on the head as disrespectful. Interestingly, dogs don’t like to be petted on the head either. For them, this is considered a threatening gesture. While your own dog may not lash out at you, usually they are tolerating a head pat because you are, after all, their favorite person. A scratch behind the ears would be much preferred!

6. The Right Choreography: Dogs move in an arc when walking toward other canines. Similarly, it’s not a good idea to approach them head on. Again, this is considered a sign of aggression in a dog’s world. Instead, turn your body so you are at a slight angle. Your canine friend will interpret this to mean you’re friendly.

7. A Dog’s Eye View: Dogs also consider it good manners for humans to get down to their level rather than towering over them. Standing over a fearful or submissive dog could evoke a growl, which means back off please! If you want an idea of how threatening you can look from a canine perspective, get down on the ground and view the world by looking upwards.

8. Yawn!: In human terms, yawning in public is considered extremely rude, as it’s a sign of outright boredom and disinterest. Dogs, on the other hand, like and understand large exaggerated yawns to be a friendly greeting. And, if you take it a step further by simultaneously blinking your eyes, it’ll have a calming effect on a dog that may feel a bit stressed. A yawn is considered a way to defuse any possible doggie tension. Translated into “doglish” it means “everything is okay,” even if continual yawning will put the humans in the room to sleep.

If a dog backs away from you either out of shyness or fear, don’t press the issue. A stressed out dog could become aggressive, and that’s not good for either party. If you get a canine seal of approval during your introductions, the chances are your new friend will attempt to paw you or nuzzle closer. That means it’s time for some petting!

How to Greet a Dog So You'll Become Friends



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