How can we communicate in a clear and comprehensible manner in order for our dogs to understand what is expected of them? How can we give them the intel they need to understand the environment in order to feel safer?
Many people believe that dogs need to be taught obedience or else they will become uncontrollable and difficult to to handle. It’s true they do need rules and boundaries to live with us successfully but we can teach that without suppressing their behaviors by teaching obedience through commands. We can teach co-operatively.
It is possible for dogs to make associations with words then string together those words so they can understand entire concepts of what you are communicating. Once a dog understands one concept you have taught them, through chosen word patterns, you can teach them others and string those basic concepts together. However, we’ve been taught not to speak too much to our dogs because it confuses them. So people don’t speak at all to them-which in fact, also confuse them. So the idea of speaking in a string of words to a dog will seem silly to some people but witnessing it’s effects is truly an enlightening moment that can turn into many more moments with many different dogs.
They are masters at reading body language, pheromones between other dogs and people- chemical communication. So its not really a stretch that they can learn to put basic concepts together to link some ideas of what is going on in the environment- they are capable of understanding quite a bit more than many humans realize.
This evolving understanding of the learning experience of a dog offers more possibilities in communicating effectively. More importantly it creates a base of safety and trust which carries through your entire relationship with your dog. We all want to understand our environments but what if we can’t communicate because we’re in another country and don’t speak the language? How do you navigate your day? It’s the same concept with your dog. They are a species with a language that is not the same as ours.
Teaching commands with a cue whether it’s with treats or a shock collar does not teach concepts. It doesn’t help them understand their environment as it’s meant to suppress an unwanted behavior that we have a problem with. Cueing a dog to perform behaviors we want is not clear communication for the dog as its a robotic procedure under the concept of rewarding with food or punishment through tools.