Observation - The Key To Understanding Your Dog

Mar 4 / Sally Gutteridge
Our dogs are talking all the time. Your dog is telling you time and again what they want you to know, how something makes them feel or whether they are happy or worried when you take them somewhere. But how can you possibly know what they are saying when they don’t use English? That’s easy – learn a bit of their language, then apply Enlightened Observation.

What is observation. We humans find observation difficult - we are not particularly good listeners. We spend a lot of our time assuming and waiting for our turn to put our point across. We assume we know what our dogs want, are saying, need and it’s usually from a place of love. To observe though, we must stop – empty our mind of things we assume, want to say or do; and just be there to gather information. Observation is crucial for understanding; it’s why well-educated dog professionals need to see your dog to find answers and sit quietly when they come to your home. Observation is why the good trainers and coaches don’t wade in with action. They know that they need to know how the dog feels and for that they need to watch the dog.

When you observe a dog who overreacts you can see the small changes before they become big ones. It empowers you to look into the environment and see what is causing those changes. Observation empowers you to manage what you ask your dog to cope with, long before they have to react overtly. The stiller you are when observing your dog – the more you will learn.

You’re looking for their neutral state – every dog has one. The point where they are just simply doing nothing. Note where their tail sits, how their ears lie, their posture, their facial expression. Next you’re looking for changes in that neutral state – which leads us to enlightenment.

Enlightenment means that we don’t take information from some dog trainer on the telly, we don’t assume how our dog feels or why they act like they do. Enlightenment means that we learn the facts about Canine Communication and apply them to our observation. Generally, a dog’s body language moving upwards and tighter from their neutral state means they are becoming tense. If they become looser, they are becoming more relaxed.

Remember though all dogs are different. Your own dog will have a very specific neutral state and their feelings will show in a way that’s unique to them. So it’s a really good idea to learn some generic communication from an excellent source then observe your dog with that knowledge. 

When your dog realises that you are really seeing them, really understanding them – that’s the magic! 

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