With the rise in popularity of dog whispering in recent years, it seems that today every dog trainer is calling themselves a Dog Whisperer. So are there really so many dog whisperers out there, or is the term being used too loosely? While there is no doubt in my mind that dog whispering methods offer a more effective and natural way to coexist and communicate with your dog than the old idea of dog obedience and dog training.
I am concerned there are not many trainers or dog owners who truly understand what the term Dog Whispering really entails. To me, the concepts of dog whispering and dog training are actually polls apart.
What does Dog Whispering really mean?
This article is written to help those who want a dog whisperer for their dog – to ensure they are getting the genuine thing, and not just a dog trainer using a fancy term.
So firstly, what is the definition of a Dog Whisperer? It is generally understood that dog whispering is based around the structure and function of canine families in the wild. To me, it is the art of communicating and interacting with dogs in a natural way – the way they communicate with each other. It is centred around the application and understanding of dog psychology – pack dynamics, body language, voice, energy, the relationships between humans and dogs, and how they communicate and coexist “culturally”. It is based on the belief that establishing hierarchy, safety and security (survival) through leadership, and providing positive outlets for energy, are fundamental to a stable and content dog.
Achieving this requires a thorough understanding of a dog’s model of the world and what fulfils and motivates them. To develop healthy relationships between humans and dogs, both parties need to benefit and be fulfilled and there must be effective communication. It makes sense that the focus is on helping humans to understand dog language rather than teaching dogs to understand human language.
All healthy relationships are based on mutual respect and trust, and the relationship with your dog is no different in this regard. It is essential to treat a dog with dignity and as a dog, not as a human. Dogs are pack animals by nature and require leadership from their pack leader. It is important for effective communication and overall harmony that this leadership be fair and consistent.
When your dog is happy to follow you and accepts you making decisions on their behalf (in all situations – not just at home!) you will know you have earned their trust and respect. This is why we always put the relationship first. Real leaders prioritise the best interests of the whole pack at all times, and are trusted with their safety and survival. There is no room for ego. If we want to assume the role of pack leader, we need to constantly ask ourselves, am I worthy of following? Your character and self conduct are noticed by your dog more than you may be aware of. Just as you form opinions of those around you based on personal qualities, so does your dog. If you are relying on treats or threats to get the behaviour you want from others, rarely will you impress or earn admiration.
Fundamental to this approach is addressing the state of mind that a dog is in in each situation rather than focusing solely on a command or ‘trick’. The natural state of mind for any animal is to be calm, stable and present - “in the now”. It is in this calm state of mind that dogs are far more able and willing to learn and cooperate, and so to genuinely have influence over a dog, it follows that you must first have influence over their state of mind. Only when the mind is in this balanced state can effective ‘training’ begin. Teaching a dog a lot of tricks when their mind is unstable (anxious, hyperactive, obsessive) is a very limited approach and gives very limited results. By focusing on firstly creating and then rewarding a stable, balanced, respectful state of mind – as opposed to relying on treats and clickers - you will see an amazing change in your dog’s behaviour.
The above is the basic understanding of what dog whispering is and how it differs from dog ‘training’. But for me being a dog whisperer involves much more than this.
To be consistently effective, a dog whisperer needs to be in touch with, and sensitive to, the relationships they have formed both with themselves and others (humans and dogs). This comes from an understanding of natural principals and the interplay of mind, energy and consciousness. True wisdom and intuition (inner knowing) comes from within, and are not things which are able to be taught or learnt through academic means or by using a limited scientific approach that has been read in a book or heard in a lecture. These skills are developed through many years of experience and practise.
How do Dogs Communicate?
Dogs communicate through nature’s universal language – energy. It is the quality and size of the energy field a being creates, and where and how they direct it, that largely determines the level of “power” it holds. Every moment comes down to an interplay of energy. One dog expands its energy and the other retracts their energy in response - yin yang. When we talk about ‘dominant’ and ‘submissive’ behaviour, this is really what is happening. To effectively play the game, you need to understand and work with this concept.
Fundamental to my own philosophy is the understanding that your dog feels your emotions as their own, and so instinctively wants you to feel joy and peace so it can share this. You are, in fact, a group energy or emotion, not separate from each other in this way. Dogs reflect the emotional energy and behaviour of their owners and pack as a whole, and therefore through understanding and having control over your own behaviour and emotions, you are able to affect the behaviour and emotions of your pack.
Your dog’s primary purpose is to make you feel good. Almost every behaviour your dog displays is an attempt to help you feel the peace and joy that you can then share with them and so on. They may not always know how to do this, but they will try.
Ultimately, the happier you are, and the more joy and peace you feel, the happier your dog will become. So it all comes down to this!! Stop trying to please your dog and make your dog happy. There is no need. The highest form of love is self love, and like all the great masters of history who have long been preaching this, your dog is here to help you remember this.
Please ensure you are getting what you are paying for. If you want a dog whisperer for you and your dog, make sure they are genuine and not just using the popular term.
Author: George Lygidakis
George is well known as Australia’s leading Dog Whisperer. He has unique ability to help dogs and their owners communicate.