Do you ever wonder if your dog can understand you? Well, did you know that the average dog can learn up to 165 words? In fact, canine researchers estimate that a dog’s intelligence is close to that of a 2-year-old child. Pretty smart! This means that dogs are highly perceptive and pick up a lot about their owners, including their body language and smell. So, if our pups can understand us, what are we communicating back to our pups?
Body language and nonverbal communication play a huge role in dog training. While we’re used to verbal communication, dogs mainly communicate with us non-verbally. The way we move and behave sends signals to our pup and it’s good to understand what we’re saying to them.
Arms outspread, direct eye contact: Your dog will see this combo of body cues as a threat or confrontation. Spreading your arms causes you to appear larger, and direct eye contact is a threat to pups in the wild. Be careful of either of these gestures around your pup, especially if it’s a new family member.
Rapid breathing: Yep, your dog watches your breathing. Quick breathing will indicate to your dog that something’s up, and they may become anxious. Remember, many dogs are highly sympathetic!
High-pitched voice: This also tells your dog that you’re anxious, and they may become excitable. If your dog becomes anxious and tries to jump up, settle things down by lowering your voice and folding your arms.
Smiles and frowns: Yes, your dog can tell the difference! Try it out at home. When you smile right at them, they’ll probably wag their tail. If you frown severely at them, they may back up or avert their gaze. So be careful how you look at your furbaby - leave your stress in your office!
Beyond body language, our scents may also communicate to our dogs non-verbally. Dogs have a strong sense of smell and have more scent receptors than humans. Scientists estimate that a pup’s sense of smell is about 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than ours.
Your unique smell: Your dog knows you by your unique scent profile, and can tell it apart from that of other humans. Don’t run for the Chanel No. 5 - dogs just have an amazing sense of smell; over a million times better than a human’s.
Adrenaline: Dogs can smell adrenaline! When you’re anxious, nervous, angry, or scared, you release adrenaline. You can’t smell anything, but the pup whiffs it immediately. He may grow anxious in response, and approach you to be petted.
So just remember, you’re communicating to your dog all the time without realizing it! And they use all their senses to understand you - that’s love.