The most effective communication with dogs is non-verbal. Dogs don’t speak human languages (they can learn some words, true – but other means of communicating are far more effective) so communicating on their terms is our responsibility. The things that your dog understands best are:
- Your movement
- Your position in relation to the dog and the equipment
- Your connection with the dog through the use of your eyes
- The direction of your chest (“the laser pointer”)
- The direction of your feet
- Your hand signals
- Your verbal commands.
Our dogs have taught us that every handling technique uses these seven elements. When you combine them in the right way, you are very clearly and precisely supporting your dog through an agility course.
All lines of communication should support the same thing.
If you don’t have all these elements working together, it might explain why your dog sometimes doesn’t do what you want! For example, if you point with your arm to the tunnel, and shout ”tunnel,” but you are moving in another direction, and the laser pointer of your chest is pointing in yet another direction, your dog is getting really mixed signals. Sometimes he may guess right, but he actually doesn’t have a clear idea which of the instructions he should follow. Often this unconscious giving of mixed signals leaves handlers frustrated. “I said tunnel, but my dog was naughty and didn’t obey me.” Poor dog. He did try to interpret your mixed handling, but there just were too many conflicting signals.
Movement rules over all the other lines of communication. Your dog will naturally follow your movement even before you start teaching him anything at all: try walking away from a little puppy, and you'll see that he will run after you. If your other...
Your position on the agility course passes a lot of information to your dog, so it’s no surprise that position is one of the most powerful elements. There is not one right way to choose position as each dog is an individual and can respond differently...
Connection doesn’t necessarily mean staring at your dog. In fact you don’t even have to see your dog the whole time. From her point of view, you are connected when you are aware of her location, and she knows which side of you to stay on. Your dog needs to see...
Your feet play a more significant role in handling than your arms.When you think about it, you realise that your dog’s head is naturally quite low. So when our students are waving their arms around rather than using their feet, we ask them to get down on...
Chest – Laser Point
Imagine a laser pen pointing from your chest to the ground about five feet in front of you; this is the point which dogs seek. In training sessions we teach our students to imagine where the chest laser point is pointing, and to think about if that really...
Arms & Hands
It takes us until this point to get to arms and hands, because they are less important than much of your other body language, from your dog’s perspective! It is entirely possible (we have done this before) to successfully handle an entire course without...
Finally we analyze probably the most challenging element, verbal cues. This handling element tends to need a lot of teaching, as it’s not natural for dogs to understand it. Words are important for us people, but not for dogs. Sometimes we hear upset...