On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals

15 Dec

There is always more room to train our dogs. With Ilsa, we constantly have to work on fear and confidence issues. I don’t consider myself an expert on this topic by any means but living with a fearful dog requires a need to learn how to handle her fears appropriately. Ilsa best fits the description of “selectively sensitive”. She is by NO means a “soft” dog, and when she is confident with her surroundings, she is an amazing dog to watch. To help explain this, taking a walk with Ilsa at the park can always present a challenge. Any other dog or object could be frightening to her despite how well socialized she is. In contrast, she exudes confidence in the bird field and agility ring. Although we try to use these situations where she is excited to build her confidence, we must also be prepared for the times when she’s scared. To better understand Ilsa’s behavior, we have read a number of books by dog behaviorists, and today we will share a review of one of those books.

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas is really one of the pioneering publications in understanding dog behavior. Turid’s description of signals given by dogs ranging from the obvious to the extremely subtle is remarkable. This book is entirely dedicated to recognizing what your dog is trying to tell you and how to communicate with your dog.

My biggest take away from this book is nature of how to communicate with our dogs. Of course we can teach a dog to learn basic commands in our language, but we can better communicate by using the same signals as our dogs to speak in a language they understand. One powerful example Turid provides is a dog terrified of the sound of trains going by the house. She tries communicating with the dog by yawning thus telling her there is nothing to worry about. The dog relaxes quickly and with time becomes comfortable with the passing trains. I simply love this quote from Turid; “It takes so little to be friendly to a dog, and the result can be so overwhelmingly huge. You always have the choice of being threatening or calming. To me the choice is easy.” This has definitely made me think twice about the tone in my voice before giving a command.

Communicating through signals is one of the finer points of the book, but it also helps you recognize when a dog is stressed. This is not the time to demand too much. Sometimes, the dog just needs to be a dog. Dogs don’t like to walk head on toward each other but instead prefer to walk toward each other on a curve. Small changes like this along with changing the way I handle tension of Ilsa’s leash have made almost instant differences.

I highly recommend this book to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. Admittedly, some of the examples almost seem to good to be true, but there is a lot to take away from this book. As always, thanks for visiting our blog. We look forward to sharing more of our experiences with Ilsa.


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