by Healey Lockette
Do I have to be psychic?
Animal training is animal communication. While I have known gifted psychic animal communicators, psychic skills are not necessary to communicate with your dog. You may not have thought of training in these terms before, but I want you to consider this concept.
Animal training is animal communication. You communicate what you want your animal to do. Your animal will also talk back.
What you do need, is patience, observational skills, and the ability to use those observations to understand what your dog is saying.
I can talk to my dog?
Dogs do communicate, through body posture, facial expressions, and vocalizations. Dogs (and all animals!) experience emotions, which they communicate with each other and, you! As a responsible pet parent, you need to understand what your dog is telling you. Our pets are supremely sensitive to our moods, postures and actions. Whether you notice it or not, your dog watches you and knows your every action.
Spend some time just observing your dog, or a pack. Try to do it without them being aware of your attention. Watch heads, ears, and tails; are they perked high or held low? Where are her eyes focused? Is her expression strong, confident, or wary and tense? Is there a ridge of fur standing up along his spine, or is his coat slick, and flat with skin tight and twitching? What do you think it means?
Next, watch your dog when you’re interacting with her, her facial expressions and postures. Learn to recognize when your dog is paying attention to you, or focused on other things. A dog talks with her whole body, so you need to be able to identify what her ear flicks, eye twitches and body positions mean.
What’s that got to do with training?
“I just want my dog to do what I say.” Of course, but how are you going to tell your dog what you want? You are the one who has to define the vocabulary, and make sure your dog understands it. This is much easier if you can read your dog. Is he paying attention to you? Or the squirrel dashing across the lawn? If you say, “Come” when he’s thinking about chasing squirrels, what’s the likely outcome? Exactly. You chasing your dog as he dashes after the squirrel.
Training an animal means you are modifying its behavior, sometimes contrary to the animal’s natural behavior or instincts. For the animal to do this at your request requires a deep level of trust. You build that trust by establishing a system of communication that is clear and consistently applied. This is true no matter what species you’re working with. I’ve personally applied to dogs, wolves, cheetahs, sea lions and more.
Once you gain that trust, you know it. Everyone who’s trained a dog, or any creature, has felt that bond, of being in sync with your animal and perfectly understanding each other. It’s really spectacular.
I can teach you how to understand your dog, how to communicate, and how to train so that the two of you really are best friends for life. My book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS covers all these topics and more. It’s a holistic manual on how to do dog parenting right. Visit my website, healeylockett.com, for links to my publisher and coupon code for 15% off!
Healey has 20 years of experience training dogs and 10+ years of exotic animal training at the San Diego Zoo and other institutions to draw upon. “I’ve trained wolves, cheetahs, and sea lions – and even taught a porcupine to walk on a leash! I’ve found that any animal is trainable; it’s the humans who need the help.”
She is the author of Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS, and her goal is to teach people how to craft a training program that suits their dog.