PREFACE: ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND THE BOOK
I am writing this book in response to numerous requests I have received for a book from people who have read my articles and people I have worked with in person and via e-mail and phone consultations. My approach is to not “just” provide the ABCs of correcting an issue. Rather, I try to explain the WHYs. For me, this is the only effective way to help someone deal with any situation or for them to approach behavior, training and interaction with their dog(s).
The most fundamental aspect of my approach is recognizing that our dogs are dogs and as dogs, their language is DOG SPEAK; and conversely, we are humans and our language is HUMAN SPEAK. This creates a “cross- species” communication barrier. When we encounter a person who speaks a foreign language, we are still able to communicate on a very basic level. We can pantomime, emulate, and use body/facial expressions. This is actually the way infants learn language. Even though humans speak many different languages, we are of the same species and are able to find a way to communicate within our own species (intra- species communication). Since the dogs are an entirely different species, when we attempt to communicate with them, this constitutes “cross-species” communication. Pantomiming, emulating, and body/facial expressions are not (initially) applicable in a cross- species situation.
In fact, many things we attempt to communicate actually mean something entirely different to the canine species. Let’s take something very simple and almost universal among humans...the big smile! The big smile is understood by almost every human being and can disarm or diffuse many volatile situations. Now, consider what a dog sees when we smile big...TEETH! What does it mean when a dog “bares his teeth”? Now, consider holding your arms out for a hug. Again, this is understood by most humans. When we do this we make ourselves visually “larger”. When dogs draw themselves up and stand as erect as possible, they do this to make themselves appear larger. Think about what “raised hackles” communicate to other dogs. Raised hackles are a physical reaction in the dogs which makes them appear physically “larger” to other dogs. These are only two examples of how some of our most basic human communication modes translate differently across species.
Don’t get me wrong, the dogs have an incredible ability to “bridge” this communication barrier. I believe this is the most essential aspect for why the dogs were able to connect with humans hundreds of thousands of years ago. Granted, there are more involved explanations for how and why the connection came about between dogs and humans. But, I truly believe in its most elemental form, this connection had to do with the dogs being able to connect with us on some level.
The biggest problem we have today is that we tend to put ALL of the responsibility on the dogs to bridge our “species” communication barrier. The root of most behavior and training issues with the dogs is the inability of the humans (owners) to take, at the very least, equal responsibility for communication. I find it incredulous that humans expect the dogs to shoulder all of the responsibility. People contact me asking why the ten week old puppy they brought home on Friday is NOT housetrained by Sunday evening. Others ask me why their pup insists on using their mouths when playing. Others ask why their pup is being aggressive. After all, they are jumping at them and barking, or nipping at their legs, feet, or hands. Others will be concerned that their pup is being aggressive because they are growling during play and other normal interactions. One of the most common comments I hear from people is their pup or dog is being stubborn because they refuse to do what the people want. Stubborn? This is not being stubborn; rather it is NOT understanding what you want!
To be fair, I think these human misperceptions occur for a couple of reasons. Unfortunately some breeds are considered stubborn or difficult to train because of their breed, like the terriers. But, in all honesty, the misperceptions (as a whole) cross all breeds. I think the overall misperceptions occur as a result of people not recognizing the communication gap, language barrier because the dogs are so good at communicating in the most basic and universal language of all...the language of LOVE.
Ask yourself why God imbued the dogs with this incredible trait. I believe it is because we were intended to hook up with the dogs. I believe the dogs are capable of teaching us many life lessons, if only we will listen and truly hear what they have to teach us.
I hope my book will help people learn how to understand what their dogs are communicating. And, that people will learn how to communicate with their dogs in a manner the dogs can understand. When you open this communication pathway with your dog, a whole new world opens to you, to your dog, and will enrich your relationship together.
What I intend to provide is an insight and grasp of what the dogs see and hear (understand) from what we say and do in our interactions with them. I want you to realize that what you are saying and doing often times is vastly different from what you think you are saying and doing because the dogs are “hearing” it through their language pathways, dog speak. While human language and communication has many variances, many gray areas, many evolutions and convolutions...the dogs’ language is exceedingly black and white.
Those of you who have managed to communicate with your dogs, who have managed to have an incredible relationship with your dogs, have managed to open yourselves to the unfathomable depth of the dogs’ ability to communicate on an almost ethereal level. The dogs have a capacity for this that people can only aspire to. I feel that even those of you who have successfully opened this communication pathway with your dogs will find some additional insight into your dogs and your relationship with your dogs through the information I share in my book.
Those of you who have never reached this point or possibly not with your current dog, I hope you will find the key to understanding your dog and opening this communication with your dog.
If you read a section and your reaction is an excuse for why this does not apply to your dog or why this would not work for your dog, then I would say you are not open to the bigger picture. There is no way I could cover all dog personalities, owner personalities, and dog/owner dynamics. However, I have tried to cover as many scenarios as possible, to provide you with as much understanding of situations and circumstances as possible. YOUR part is to take the information, learn from it, gain a better understanding, change/modify some of your perceptions and preconceived ideas, and be open to redefining what you thought was truth and reality in dealing with the dogs. Do not go into this venture looking for a “quick fix”. If something I present does not fit your situation exactly, look to the explanation of why I presented what I did. This will allow you to modify what I suggest or recommend so you are able to find your way to the ultimate resolution you do need.
My fervent hope is that this book will improve the lives of many dogs and their owners (families). And most importantly, I hope my philosophies and approaches will enrich your life, your dog’s life, and your lives together. I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
COME, SIT, STAY…Canine Etiquette
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