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Friday, January 6, 2012

Body Language Masters

Regular readers will know that animal behavior is a strong interest of mine and I've done a lot of study in this area.  Often I point out to clients that dogs are masters at reading human body language.  Much of their own communication is non-verbal and a lot can be "said" with changes in posture.  Because they are hard-wired to pick up on these cues, the notice a lot of the signals we send without realizing it.

Though this is generally accepted and well-understood by behaviorists, there hasn't been much scientific evidence.  That is, until now.  Today I just read an article about this subject, describing how dogs will follow a person's gaze in the same way that human infants and toddlers will do.  Though it may seem simple to us, it's proof that dogs really are aware of us and in tune with our movements.

Why does this matter?  Because we need to keep in mind our non-verbal signals in relation to our pets.  The volume and tone of our voices, our posture, the strength of our gestures, and a hundred other little things communicate various things to our pets.  When talking to clients who have dogs with behavioral issues I will usually ask about any stresses, arguments, or changes in the humans of the household.  Arguments among the humans can cause problems for the dogs as well.

In client service training I've been told that about 80% of communication between humans is non-verbal.  However, most people don't pay conscious attention to this even if they still pick up on it.  The animals around us are more consciously aware of these cues.  If we pay attention to such communication when we're training and teaching our pets, we can have better behaved dogs and cats and closer bonds with them.