Emotions – Feeling What We Speak When Training Our Dogs

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“What we think and feel, our body does”.  Diane Ackerman

Reggie is taking me on great adventures. He is the most amazing dog I have ever met but amazing does not equate to easy. Reggie is not for the faint of heart, and I am learning how to bring the most out of my monster-  child thanks to my amazing teachers both near and far. My lesson of the past year is about emotions, and feeling what I ask of him.

Almost all trainers are missing the appropriate emotions with their dogs once the leash and cookies are picked up for a training session. Their words say what we want our dogs to hear yet our bodies and minds indicate something else.

I recently just spent two weeks in Germany, yet I don’t speak a word of conversational German. When I was in groups of people, all I could do was watch. After a few days of people watching, I started to get an idea of the conversations they were having by watching the emotions of the group. Arm gestures and faces tell a full story! I knew when someone was happy, concerned, serious, or when someone had just said something really naughty! Our words are directly connected to emotions. We feel what we say though perhaps censor, and this shows in our bodies and faces. Our bodies do not lie – they tell the full story.

Now, if you take people and put them with their dogs in a training session – their commands and praise lack true emotions. People are either always happy, sucky, or looking really bored!


What we should be seeing is emotions coming through our minds and body language. We have relationships with our dogs, and just like watching the people interact in their group, the owner / dog relationship should be showing happiness, concern, concentration and effort, thoughtfulness, seriousness when something is unacceptable and absolute joy when it is perfect.

When watching dog trainers on U-Tube, or even on TV, I turn off the volume and watch the person’s body language. Often the words coming out of their mouths are in complete contradiction to what they deliver through their body and facial expression. The dogs always respond to the person’s emotions, regardless of what words are delivered.

However, the fascinating thing about Human Nature is words override this for us. If we are being told what to see, we will see it even if it is not there to be seen. If the person is laughing and making fun sounds, we will believe that everyone is having fun, despite the fact that the person is scowling. Words seem to override what we see. Body Language is the secondary thing that we pick up on, and will be dismissed if it is in conflict with what we heard.

Often with dogs and people the words and emotions do not match. “Good Boys” can be spat out with disdain, and “No” is cooed with love and full acceptance. No wonder we have so many confused dogs pet-dogs in North America. We are lying to ourselves.

Reggie is fiercely smart. He knows things that a dog should not know. When I put my shoes on, he knows what activity is coming up next. He knows when we are going tracking, when we are going walking, when we are going training, or when we are off to walk around the property – right at the moment that I put on my shoes. If he is smart enough to pick up on the subtle cues of our activities, he is also smart enough to know if I mean what I say.

If I coo “No” while biting my tongue trying not to laugh at his latest prank that was wickedly naughty and clever, my word of “No” will not match my emotions and I have lied to him. In my human-mind my word of “No” conveyed my stand on the matter. But my dog does not speak English. To him everything in my body language told him that I thought it was really funny. Reggie the prankster is always trying to amuse me – so for him that feedback means repeat. A Reggie prank, once approved by me, always tend to end with me being bruised, so these matters do need to be treated seriously. I must honestly convey to him what I want repeated, and what I do not want repeated, regardless of his creativity and energy.

Reggie is forcing me to match up my words to my emotions. If I don’t like it, I cannot bite my tongue and giggle in my head. “No” to a mischievous prank is now “Don’t do that again or I will become unhappy with you”. “Good Boy” now is felt by a warming of pride inside me. “Excellent” actually gets me excited at his brilliance. When I want him to be still and calm, I am still and calm. And when I want him to go wild, my mind goes wild. My body and mind now mirror how I want him to think and feel. Externally I might look the same, but Reggie is teaching me iron-clad mind-control. He is a very good, albeit, an unforgiving teacher!

I am mastering “What you think and feel, your body does”.

Pairing true meanings to words is the hardest training challenge that I have had in years. My tone and intonation have indicated the right message, as have my hands and body. My hold out was my feelings and mind, when I had to be serious or calm. Reggie is too smart to be lied to and would not forgive me this error. Now my feelings and mind are also on board completing the message.

Dogs believe our emotions and body language, not our words. While our mouths say the right words, our mind and body is telling the truth of what we really believe and want them to do. Our dogs will do as our minds and bodies tell them. You cannot lie to a dog.

This has become my challenge for 2012. All that I say will be matched with the same feeling in my body and mind. My words and mind are becoming the same. To be a better dog trainer every word that leaves your mouth needs to have an emotional meaning attached to it and be believed by every fiber of your body.

Training dogs isn’t about words. And it certainly isn’t about the sounds that we make. Dog Training is all about having the right emotions inside and the right body language to match it. Ultimately, our dogs will behave as our body and mind instructs them. Once we can control our bodies, minds and words to say the same thing, our dogs will be trained to a caliber that we cannot even comprehend.

We are really not training dogs. We are training ourselves.

Happy Training Everyone,
Monique Anstee

Monique Anstee with Ch, Mach, IPO III Basil (#3 Herding in Canada) and Hilda (#9 Terrier in Canada)

1633 Kangaroo Road, Victoria, BC

The Naughty Dogge is a dog training school located in Victoria, BC. We truly are dog-trainers and competitors, bringing out the best in any dog, regardless of breed and issues. That means we teach Competition Obedience, Retrain Dog Aggressive Dogs, Teach Puppy Classes and Pet Dogs to be perfect citizens, and work with behaviour problems. There is probably not an issue that we havn””t retrained! This newsletter is copyright to Monique Anstee, March 2012 and may be reprinted with full credit given to Monique Anstee at info@naughtydogge.com.
You can contact us at 250.590.2664


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