We were in Flowery Branch last Wednesday having lunch at the Whole Being Café after finishing a Home Dog Training session nearby. The lunch was great, and as we were starting to get up to leave, the person at the next table leaned over to ask us a “I have a question about my dog” question. Since we were wearing our Home Dog Training shirts, we found this completely normal and were happy to oblige. 

Use proper body language to get your dog's attention

Our fellow restaurant patron told us that he had been experiencing issues with his eight-month-old Cocker Spaniel for the last several months. Whatever he tried, he just couldn’t get his puppy to pay attention to him.  Unfortunately, this was making him more and more frustrated and he was starting to question his decision of getting his puppy at all

He had reached out for advice from friends with dogs, dog trainers, vet techs, and had read everything he could find about “canine focus” on the internet.  The more he asked and read, the more confused he became.  This was because everyone had a different opinion.  The suggestions he tried didn’t help at all and it appeared that they just made matters worse.  He asked if we had any suggestions for him.

We began by telling him that many dog owners start off in the same boat as his. From our experience, the lack of attention and focus is one of the most common issues that dog owners experience with their dogs. The great news is that Robin and I are always able to teach our clients the appropriate methods in which to gain their dog’s focus, obedience, and respect.

We told him that we are “canine behavioral trainers”.  This means that we focus on the dog’s innate behavior in order to understand how he responds to the world around him.  His behavior will provide us with the keys to understand the plethora of environmental triggers he is experiencing.

Understanding the relationship between trigger and response allows us to clearly direct our dog to an action or behavior we desire. Other trainers use positive only reward systems.  Some trainers only use aggressively physical (negative) methods.

Although all dog trainers don’t agree on training methodology, we can all agree that dogs and people communicate using slightly different methods.  Dogs are not Saturday-morning cartoon characters on TV.  They are not Astro, Huckleberry Hound, or Scooby-Doo. When our dog wants to communicate something, they mostly do it through the use of their body language.

The next time you are at a dog park, watch the dogs around you and you will be amazed with what they are telling each other through their body language. You will probably see some dogs jumping on other dogs.  Some dogs may be very low to the ground or even rolled over on their backs. Some dogs may have their tail stuck straight up in the air like a flagpole while other dogs may have their tails drooped behind them or even tucked towards their belly. All these actions and positions are part of the dogs telling each other what they are thinking.

Once we understand their “doggie body language code”, we can use that to communicate with them as well.  To be clear, body language is not the only communication tool used by our dogs. It is the first method in a hierarchy of communication techniques used by our dogs. I will focus on body language today.

The most important things to remember when using body language with your dog are:

Always remain calm: Always display a cool, calm, and collected appearance whenever you want to communicate with your dog. Your dog is far more likely to pay attention to a calm individual than one that is “going crazy”.  They envision the one keeping them safe, happy, and secure as forthright and clear thinking.  This is displayed through calm assurance.

We often get angry when our dog has chewed up the TV remote control or stolen our bologna sandwich off the kitchen counter.  We then shout and wave our arms in the air. We do this because this is our “natural reaction” when something happens to us that makes us mad. The problem with our “natural reaction” is that it is not natural for our dog.

When we need to communicate to him that we are mad because of something he has or has not done, it must be in a manner that he understands. Our dog translates our yelling and flailing as the acts of a crazy animal and something they should ignore.  On the other hand, if we deploy calm and still body language, that tells our dog that we are the boss and someone they should respect and “listen to”.

Stand tall: Always stand up and face your dog when you need to communicate with him. All dogs identify height as leadership.  This is why your dog will jump on your leg or on your lap when they want something from you.  They are letting you that they are in charge, and they are now “ordering you to do something for them”. When you want to “be the boss” and communicate to your dog that it is time to listen, you must always be standing.

As I said before, different dog trainers use different methods in their training. Robin and I are behavioral dog trainers.  Other trainers use treats. Some trainers use more physical methods. Although we may respectfully disagree on our methodologies, we all agree that our goal is getting the dog’s respectful attention. We suggest that you give our behavioral process a try the next time you need to get your dog’s attention.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over nineteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and super great families and are ready to help you.