How To Talk To Your Pet

We make an interesting mistake when we talk to our dogs like they’re babies. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. We all do it. Sometimes they can feel us loving them, through all the extra eye contact and attention we give, as we babble along, quizzing them and pretending to chatter away.

But we’re wrong if we think we’re communicating. Dogs may have vocabularies up to 200 or more human words, but these are direct and explicit: “Here.” “Sit.” “Come.” “Treat.” There are even one or two dogs out there that know the meaning of “Ice Cream,” though it’s not healthy for them! Or when we have to start spelling words in order to get around our dogs so they don’t understand what we are saying.

Dogs are very simple. They understand direct commands. Remember, they are descended from wolves. They are at home in packs and look up to us a leaders. If you want to communicate with them, you have to be that leader. Give short commands. Do not speak in complex sentences. Yes, No, Here, Sit, Come, NOW: These are excellent starters. “Complex” for a dog is, “Want to go out?” “Want to eat?”

It’s also important to be a good listener. Our pets need us to be attentive to their body-language. When they’re relaxed; when they’re on guard; when they’re in an aggressive state or a fearful one. When you leave the house and they howl, they’re negotiating. They want you to come back. Keep going and their sounds will subside. Whining can be an expression of pain, but take care that you don’t overdo the attention you give. At the very least, give them attention at other times too. Otherwise – because our pets are clever and crafty – she or he may learn to whine like furry little actors, because they’ve realized that if they do it right, they can command your attention or gain control and end up having us right under their paws!

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