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
Frequently Asked Questions
Do dogs like it when you talk to them?
Absolutely, dogs love it when you talk to them. While they may not understand the exact meaning of our words, they are highly perceptive to our tone, emotions, and body language, which play a crucial role in their interpretation of our messages. When we talk to our dogs, they can feel the love and care we are giving them, which mostly makes them feel happy and secure. Similar to how a lullaby may quiet a newborn, the sound of our voices can likewise be calming. Dogs are also sociable creatures that thrive on company and human contact. Since they can recognize human voices, they frequently take solace in hearing their owners' voices. A dog's tail may wag, or its ears may perk up when they hear their owner speaking to them. Dogs may even respond to their owner's voice with excited barks, playful behavior, or gentle nudges, signaling their appreciation for the interaction. Moreover, talking to dogs can also have practical benefits. Dogs have the ability to link particular words or phrases to particular behaviors or actions. They can be taught to obey spoken cues like sit, stay, or fetch by providing consistent cues. Establishing clear expectations and boundaries through this method of communication helps to build the link between humans and dogs.
How do I communicate with my dog?
Communicating effectively with your dog involves a combination of verbal and non-verbal cues. Start by using a calm and friendly tone of voice, as dogs are sensitive to the emotions behind your words. To communicate your expectations, use straightforward instructions that are always followed by the appropriate hand gestures or body language. Treats and praise are examples of positive reinforcement that may promote desired behavior and improve communication. Observe your dog's body language, tail wag, ear position, and general mood since these cues provide crucial information about their wants and feelings. Furthermore, creating routines and boundaries makes it easier for your dog to grasp what is expected of them. Additionally, spending quality time together while playing, going on walks, and showing affection helps to strengthen the relationship and promote understanding. However, bear in mind that building a pleasant and successful communication channel with your animal buddy requires patience, persistence, and sensitivity.
Is it normal for me to talk to my dog?
Yes, it is entirely normal to talk to your dog. In fact, a lot of dog owners often converse with their canine pets, and anyone that does not may even be considered weird. Talking to your dog has many benefits and may be very helpful for both you and your canine companion. First of all, communicating with your dog opens up a channel for emotional connection. A relationship based on trust, companionship, and understanding may be developed with a dog by sharing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with them. Dogs are known for their capacity to detect and respond to human emotions. Even though they may not understand what you say exactly, dogs can sense your voice's tone, inflection, and affection, which can reassure and comfort them. Additionally, chatting with your dog may be a source of socialization and intellectual stimulation. Regular conversations accustom your dog to the tone and cadence of human speech, which may support the cognitive growth of the animal as a whole. Talking to your dog may also help with training and encouraging good behavior.
How do I tell my dog I love him?
You may show your dog that you care by using both verbal and non-verbal signs. Dogs can sense human emotions and value the attention and affection you provide them through your actions and words. It's important to communicate verbally because your voice may convey warmth and caring. Use a gentle, soothing tone when addressing your dog, and say phrases like "I love you" or "Good boy/girl" with genuine warmth and enthusiasm. Additionally, physical touch, like rubbing their ears gently, plays a vital role in expressing love to your dog. Petting, hugging, and soft massages can foster a feeling of security, warmth, and closeness. Maintaining direct eye contact and speaking gently helps strengthen the emotional bond between you and your dog since dogs are also receptive to eye contact.
Does my dog know when I talk to him?
Yes, dogs are aware when you speak to them. They may not grasp the exact words you are saying, but they are very aware of your tone of voice, your body language, and the feelings you are conveying. Dogs can catch up on tiny hints and messages because they have evolved to be sensitive to human communication. Your dog may feel happy and connected when you chat with them since they can tell that you are paying attention to them. Additionally, they can identify the sound of your voice and relate it to your presence and care.
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