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Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

Posted July 20, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta
Pathfinder Tags: communication dogs

There's always been at least one canine member of my family. Communication with the family pet ranges from the simple command of "sit" to trying to figure out what might be ailing the pup. There are some lessons in communication with pets that area easily translated to improving your communication with people.

Speak the Same Language

A friend adopted a Labrador retriever. The dog was super-friendly and seemed eager to please. It was a few years old, but no matter what the family did, the dog would not listen. It didn't respond to sit, stay, lay down, or any of the other usual commands. Finally, a friend of the friend told the dog, "SIENTATE!" The dog promptly sat down. Turns out, it had previously lived with a Spanish-speaking family and did not understand English.

It seems like it should go without saying, but it's important to make sure that you're speaking the same language with someone when you're trying to communicate. Even English has its differences (English English vs. American English). Each industry has its own jargon and each company has its own terminology. I was recently working on a flow chart to introduce a new group to a business process. We have internal flow charts that explain the process in our own terms referring to proprietary tools and processes. To an outsider, the language may as well be gibberish, because the undefined jargon is meaningless.

Be Consistent

Some commands, like sit, are fairly universal in the dog world. Other times there may be multiple ways to tell a dog something. If you want the dog to get off the couch, one person might say "Off", another "Down" and a third "NO!!!!" If the dog lives in a household where everyone uses a different command and expects the same result, some are going to be disappointed.

Have you ever started a job at a new workplace? You may have been trained or received instruction from multiple people. Did they all use the same words to describe the same things? "The database", "Access", "db", or a specific tool name? They may all mean the same thing, but when you're trying to figure it out, it can be very confusing.

Check Your Tone

When you tell a dog "good girl" or "NO!", the two things not only mean something very different, but are also usually said in a different tone of voice. When giving a command, like calling a dog to come to you for its bath, what type of tone is likely to have the best results? You don't use your "NO!" voice because you don't want the dog to have a negative association with the bath.

Tone is a big part of communication. Even writing can take on a certain tone, although it is easily misinterpreted. Tone may vary by topic (announcing a company celebration vs. an unfortunate accident) or by audience (sending a personal email to a friend vs. correcting a direct report's behavior).

What have you learned from a furry friend that helps you communicate better with people?

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#1

Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/20/2012 8:00 AM

Communicating with our cat has taught me a lot about communicating with my wife.
Neither take the slightest notice.
Del

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Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/20/2012 8:16 AM

Cats seem to be a little trickier! I'm not sure how ethical it is, but I think the key lies with bribes. Food and treats seem to serve as excellent motivators to get the cat to even listen. ;)

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Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/20/2012 6:18 PM

Beg to differ - they see it all, but simply yawn and let us do whatever madness we contemplate .

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#3

Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/20/2012 5:58 PM

Being a spanish speaking person, I must say that the command Sietate is an ITALIAN word

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Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/21/2012 10:48 AM

Oops, I forgot a letter. My Spanish is a little rusty these days! That was a second-hand story so I guess I didn't hear correctly. Yet another communication problem!

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Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/20/2012 10:57 PM

Dogs have taught me to mark my territory by peeing around the perimeter....but I assure you I rarely engage in this type of behavior....just on special occasions...

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#6

Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/21/2012 1:12 AM

I have lived with many, many dogs over the years. If one pays special attention, one can actually comprehend what the dog is trying to tell you. For instance, every dog I have ever known, since I was very lttle, had a special bark for "snake". Given a chance, most dogs will cater to your moods- they seem to have a second sense about when one needs special cuddling. Dogs, if they like you, are anxious to please. It is not necessary to "punish" a dog for misbehaving- the proper tone of voice will do the trick- as long as you are consistent. And, just like children, they will occasionally try to test the limits of what is permissible- even getting to the point of assessing your mood before engaging in unapproved behavior.

Cats, on the other hand, expect you to cater to them...

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Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/21/2012 1:26 AM

I stopped humping stranger's legs after seeing the reactions that my dog receives....

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Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/21/2012 3:06 AM

<sparf> ... damn, that's breakfast ceral on the keyboard again...
Del

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Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/21/2012 3:32 AM

I'm a tad concearned about that qualifier 'strangers'. Does Wal just grin and bear it ?

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Re: Things Dogs Have Taught Me About Communication

07/21/2012 10:26 AM

What language to small children speak?

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cwarner7_11 (1); Del the cat (2); Kris (2); lyn (1); r&ddoc (1); SavvyExacta (2); SolarEagle (1); Wal (1)

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