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Training Tips: Body Language

by Rita and Dan Comden

Dogs have their own language too. The intensity and degree of expression differs with breeds as well as individual dogs from the same litter. If you can recognize and understand what your partner is trying to tell you, he will become even more expressive as time goes by.

Caption: Poul and Shocka after a successful flight (35K) Image-Poul and Shocka

Your own body language is very important when communicating with your dog. Nonverbal cues such as posture, hand/arm movements, pitch and rate of speech, are observed by your partner. By working with experienced trainers you can learn how to match your own body language to reinforce training. Erect posture, firm (not necessarily loud) tone of voice and confident demeanor are tools of the trade for the successful professional trainer and something all dog handlers can learn and use. Confidence and trust is a big part of our relationship with our working partners, on both sides. Not only do we rely on them to do the job, they rely on us to take the lead in new and unusual situations, such as the first time doing hot loads (boarding a running helicopter) or working at night.

We who live with our dogs recognize the vocal and body language signs of: The Happy Greeting; the Submissive Gestures, to the handler and other dominant dogs; the Alarm, saying someone or something is on my turf; and Feed Me, etc. As searcher we must also know how to "read" Aggression, Stress/fatigue, illness/depression, Alerts and Finds.

By knowing what to look for with your dog, you can have control in most social and search situations. This is what makes a professional search team.

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Text and photos copyright Dan Comden, 1995-2004 Dan Comden
Seattle, WA U.S.A.
Email -- dan*@* (remove the asterisks around the "@" symbol)