Dog cues…that work

By Dawn Aerts

I can talk to my dog for hours, tell him my greatest aspirations, and suspect that he won’t get a word of it.  But changing the tone of my voice, pointing to a door, or using a basic hand signal with a command that generally ‘gets’ his attention.

According to canine experts — it’s all about cues.  Sure a dog can be taught to respond to a single word that means a certain thing, but without a syntax system of thought (processing), they’ll likely never respond to the sentence we hope to convey.  That said, they are surprisingly good at ‘reading’ our outer expression.

For example, you might ask, “Do you want to go outside?”  As you walk towards the door, your dog can likely recognize the word ‘door’ but it’s actually the body language, a cue, or your voice they follow.  In short, it’s generally believed that our movements, our posture, and even a subtle glance will tell our canines everything about what we think, feel, or expect of them.

Generally, in the world of dogs, direct or continual eye contact is not always a good thing. A stare may evoke a sense of challenge and is considered a little rude for canines.  For us humans, that is (the owners they truly respect), canines are known to both stare and study expressions.  In both examples, you might say that dogs learn to read us; they hang out with the human family, and then figure out various cues.

Some experts believe that dogs have co-evolved with their human counterparts and are a bi-product of domestication and natural selection.  As we choose the calmer, more attentive animal, those canines also happen to be the ones that are best suited to learn ‘our ways’ and we welcome them into our home.

You could say they are experts at body language, gesture, voice inflection and facial expression.  If you change the tone of your voice, or point to the car door, you’ve conveyed a clear message.  Some dog owners have had the experience of simply ‘glancing’ at the leash only to find their dog already heading for the door full of anticipation for the walk.

While this behavior may ring true for dog owners, it makes behavioral scientists wonder about their social acuity.  Can our dogs read body language and anticipate what will happen in their world?  Much like humans, yes, we do it automatically.  We recognize and understand that when a person we are speaking to starts glancing at their watch.  Hey, it’s time to get to the point. Can canines likewise interpret our internal thoughts?

In the world of dogs, we can speculate that communication is a compelling blend of smell, visual cues and sound.  Yes, you can talk to your dog for hours but it’s mostly those human cues and the tone of your voice that will get his loyal attention.

If you would like to ‘Be a Hero’ and provide a home to adoptable dog or cat, visit your local animal shelters – Cedar City Shelter or Enoch City Shelter, 435-586-8791 or 435-586-2960.



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