Have you ever seen an unknown or known person interact with their dog in a manner that made you cringe or made you mad?
I remember witnessing a middle aged woman beating her small dog that was on a flexi with the handle part. In my mind 1) it was not pleasant to watch 2) how can I make a change and 3) what did the dog do to deserve such treatment?
Dogs behave as dogs do, unfortunately millions of dogs are relinquished to shelters, abandoned, tortured or killed due to our misunderstandings of dog behavior and our “sacred cow” myths that people hold dear as factual. There’s now a new website that anyone interacting with a dog can go to, to better understanding dog body language and their emotional states. iSpeakDog, launched this past March 2017 to elevate our dog knowledge, “know better, do better.” Kudos to my alumni (SFSPCA Academy for Dog Trainers) Tracy Krulick who started this project.
“There is such a massive disconnect between what people think their dogs are doing and saying and what is really happening, and everyone suffers because of it. So many dogs are punished for so-called “bad behavior,” and their people never get to fully enjoy the company of their pups.” – Tracy Krulick
In order to speak dog, we have to understand both the behavior and emotional states in the given context. As the words “there”, “their” and “they’re” sound the same but have different meanings so do a lot of growls and barks. The Academy for Dog Trainers, the Humane Rescue Alliance, The Bark Magazine, and The Pet Professional Guild teamed up to launch iSpeakDog.
The goal for iSpeakDog is for people to be more Socratic in our thinking and separate out all of the inappropriate information that is out there and to help them learn more about body language and appreciate the dog for who they are. Appreciate the species. Even “dog professionals” be it veterinarians, groomer or trainers can read a dog inappropriately. This might be due to where they went to school and how current that school’s behavior program is and the professional’s own biases/opinions.
There have been several recent studies on how we humans misinterpret dog language. There is a knowledge gap. This study from Dr. Horowitz, Mr. Wan et al, Mr. Demirbas et al shows how poorly we as humans interpret dog behavior. This can lead to mistreatment of the dogs and lead to increase dog bites. All of what you think you know about dog body language / dog behavior can lead to a less than ideal relationship. Why did you get a dog in the first place? To enhance your life and bring you joy, right?
We as humans have something in our brains that makes it challenging for us to listen and understand another perspective and be willing to change towards that perspective when it is clearly more rewarding and factual. Behavioral inertia? When we are confronted with information other than what we “know” to be true, we get defensive and closed off. I know because I’m a crossover trainer. I was entrenched and indoctrinated in the belief of dominance theory and training methods that went along with that ideology. It took a leap of faith; it meant letting go of what I “knew”; it meant being vulnerable; it meant being open to other perspectives and information.
We humans are reluctant to change course especially when we are indoctrinated into a ‘belief’ about dog behavior that is no longer valid. We become welded to the ‘sacred cow’ beliefs even when all indicators logically call for a change of course. The “psychology of previous investment”…. where did you learn to ‘read’ dog body language? TV? Did you learn it by someone invested in outdated information? But how would you know if the information you digest is current and factual? Ask a lot of questions on where the information is from or look it up and see how old the information is. Better yet… If you want to understand and learn how to better read dog body language, visit www.ispeakdog.org
Share this website with friends and post it on social media with the hashtag #iSpeakDog.
Daphne Robert-Hamilton, CPDT-KA
Daphne Robert-Hamilton is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer- Knowledge Assessed by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. She was a Certified Equestrian Coach by the Canadian Equestrian Federation before moving into the dog training world. She competed extensively with her two Doberman Pinschers from 1997-2002 and achieved being a finalist in the Top 20 Obedience in 2000 and 2002 with the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. In 2002 Daphne graduated from the SFSPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, which is now defunked. She went on to intern at the SFSPCA Academy and graduated with honors in dog aggression. Daphne became the go-to trainer in the SF Bay Area for aggression cases. Daphne has done webinars, been interviewed in several dog magazines and has written a two part article on “sibling rivalry” for The Chronicle of The Dog. Daphne was the Head Trainer for Washington state for Pets for Vets for about two years. She has fostered many dogs helping them find loving forever homes. Daphne is a member of The Pet Professional Guild.
Daphne has been married for 24yrs and currently lives with her two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in Washington State.
Website is under construction – k9partnership