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Talk To The Paw: Learn To Communicate With Dogs In Their Own Language

Sep 12, 2008
Whether you're a dog owner, work with dogs, or just enjoy spending time with them (maybe you're volunteering at your local shelter or dog sit for traveling friends), these books are must-reads. They will, in various ways, help you understand dogs (and other animals) better, by teaching you how they think, move, and why they behave the way they do. Even the tiniest gesture means something when it comes to dogs, and by paying closer attention to your own reactions and gestures, you can improve your communication and relationship with the dogs in your life.

In my opinion, understanding and being able to read dogs' body language is invaluable to anyone spending time with them. You can put that knowledge to good use every day, for everything from initiating play to stopping an accident before it happens. The two books that I refer to again and again in regards to this are The Other End Of The Leash by Patricia McConnell and On Talking Terms With Dogs by Turid Rugaas.

The Other End Of The Leash
By Patricia McConnell
Patricia McConnell is a well-known animal behaviorist and professor in Zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches The Biology and Philosophy of Human/Animal Relationships. She has spent many years studying canine behavior, is a sought-after speaker who has held (and continues to hold) seminars all over the world, has her own radio show, "Calling All Pets", and has written several books and booklets. My favorite is the captivating The Other End of The Leash, in which she explores and explains the human-dog relationship and how your body language plays a big part in it. As an example, you might not even notice the tiny movement you automatically make with your hand when asking your dog to sit, but to your dog, that's the clue, not necessarily the word "sit". There are many similar examples in the book, and you will find yourself being much more aware of how you move after reading it. McConnell is a wonderful writer who really brings the many stories and case studies in the book to life. Her low-key humor will make you smile, some of the stories will bring tears to your eyes, you'll nod in recognition when she talks about certain behaviors, and in the end, you'll have a much better understanding of why your dog does certain things, and how you can help him or her be a better behaved and happier dog.

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals
By Turid Rugaas
Turid Rugaas is a Norwegian dog trainer who has gained international recognition for her groundbreaking research in canid communication. This easy read talks about canid body language, and how dogs (and wolves) almost always try to stop a fight or conflict before it begins by sending "calming signals" to each other (and to us humans as well). On Talking Terms... teaches you how you can adapt your own body language and how to use the calming signals when communicating with dogs. Notice how two dogs rarely approach each other head on. One of them usually makes a little circle to the side before coming over to say hello. This move tells the other dog that the first is friendly and means no harm - an easy method you can use as well when saying hello to an unknown dog. The "yawning technique" is another excellent example, and one that I use often to help dogs calm down and relax.

These two books are a great beginning for those who want to better understand dogs. And very entertaining reads to boot.
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