Photo by Leah Sutherland Used with Permission
“Dogs don’t rationalize. They don’t hold anything against a person. They don’t see the outside of a human but the inside of a human.”
—Cesar Millan (dog trainer)
I would love to know what goes on in the mind of pets. I’m convinced humans and pets are not so different. When we talk to our animals, they hear our tone as much or more than our words. As a human being, I can relate.
My daughter’s dog, Jax is a great communicator. He responds to her voice with full attention, and the giveaway is his “head tilt.” His warm brown eyes express such love and devotion. Sure, he communicates with me and my husband, but with her, he listens with his whole body. He loves cuddles and thinks he’s a lap dog even though he weighs 100 pounds.
Jax’s vocabulary is extensive, and although he has a 30 second delay responding to a command, he’s a quick learner; a doggy obedience trainer might say he needs a more firm hand and I won’t disagree. I’m not a dog trainer by any means and discipline has never been one of my strong traits. However, the way he reacts to words like cheese, walk, outside, do you wanna go…, car, vet, cookie, treat, dog park, ball, all done, rope, toy, and harness is endearing. When he plays, phrases like gonna git you, gimme that ball and find it make his tail twirl like a helicopter. He will even converse with whines and yips. The more we reinforce with routine action, the better it gets. To me, that is amazing.
Because I’m a natural chatterbox, I often talk to Jax in full sentences especially when he’s hanging around the kitchen being a mooch. I love his company. He will station himself on the rug at the kitchen door and stay there until I invite him in. Those doggy trainers might say this is a bad habit, but isn’t sharing food and conversation something we all enjoy!?
When my daughter goes off to school or work, he pines for her. With his head resting on the back of the armchair, he stares longingly out the window waiting for her return. I talk to him then, convinced that how I reflect his sadness back to him and reassure him, has a soothing effect. Maybe I’m imagining that, but who knows, a little reassurance never hurts.
Dogs and cats respond to our love and respect in the same way as other members of the family. Choosing gentle words when we speak to them creates a calm atmosphere.
The other day at the dog park I listened to others talking to their pets. I feel sad for pups when their owners yell or use sharp voices. Dogs may not understand the shaming language they use but I’m sure they do get the message through tone and facial expression. Pets aren’t able to talk back or question their owners but their body language says so much: tail tucked between legs, cowering or running away. These animals don’t deserve this disrespect. I’d bet that the inner talk these people use to speak to themselves is a mirror to their language with their pets.
We can learn a lot about ourselves by turning inward with the mirror of our doggie talk. What are you saying to your dog?