Have you ever heard of dog whispering? How about the series and the person behind the National Geographic Show? Do you know the issue about one of the most popular dog whisperers? Would you like to know how dog whispering can be used to train your dog?
What does dog whispering mean?
At the heart of the method, dog whispering is taming dogs with compassion and kindness. The term is an offshoot of the “horse whisperer”, which means a person who can easily tame a horse in the wild.
Dog whisperers believe that all dogs are “good”, and “bad” behavior is a result of humans not being able to understand their dogs.
Since there are different facts, rumors, and information about dog whispering, here is a list of what dog whispering is and is not.
Dog whispering is…
- establishing mutual respect by establishing a solid bond between you and your pet.
- finding creative solutions to help dogs.
- going down to the learning level of your dog, so she understands you.
- learning more about dogs so you can teach them in a positive way.
- “reading” your dog’s body language through keen observation and using the observation as a basis to adjust the training.
- training without using any force, aversive methods, or physical punishment.
- turning your reaction to your dog’s behavior from negative to positive.
- understanding your dog’s personality and social behavior.
- using a natural method in training your dog.
- using different techniques such as massage and homeopathy instead of using medicines to calm down dogs.
- working with your dog’s natural behavior instead of fighting it.
Dog whispering is not…
- a method that uses chokes, prongs, or shock collars.
- a psychic power that will suddenly make you understand your dog’s thoughts and vice-versa or will allow you to manipulate animals’ thoughts through mystical or spiritual energy.
- hitting, electrocuting, or pinning dogs to the ground.
- taking your frustration out on your dog.
- shouting human words at your dog and believing that she will understand the command right away because shouting orders just makes dogs confused, afraid, or mistrust you.
History of the Dog Whisperers
Although using humane dog training has been used for a long time, the term dog whisperer became popular only in the 1990s.
In 1999, a book titled “The Dog Whisperer, Beginning and Intermediate Training for Puppies and Dogs” by Paul Owens became a bestseller. For over 40 years, Owens has been advocating a dog training method that is positive, reward-based, and does not use force in any way.
In 2004, the National Geographic premiered a show called “The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan.” Using a reality TV, documentary format, the show chronicled dog behaviorist Cesar Millan as he helped families with their dog problems by rehabilitating dogs and humans alike. The show ran until 2012.
Dog whispering issue
Although he popularized dog whispering, Millan was accused of animal cruelty when a dog attacked a pig in one of his shows. According to some articles, he also uses tools like shock collars and force in rehabilitating dogs—a direct contradiction of dog whispering beliefs.
Also, some veterinarians have questioned Millan’s methods and theories since he does not have any educational background about dog psychology or behavior. Based on current scientific information on canine behavior, they also state that his theories like pack dominance are wrong.
Millan himself admitted that he learned what he knows by observing dogs on a farm in Mexico. Further, he did not face charges over the dog-pig incident. His followers have also pointed out that his methods have helped rehabilitate a lot of dogs.
Tips from the Dog Whisperers
Whether you believe in the controversies or not, here are some dog whispering techniques for you to check.
- Dogs do not understand human language the way we do. They just learn how to attach a behavior or action to a word. Dogs who yap or bark in human language are only found in Disney movies, not real life.
- Dogs are not humans with four legs or with human brains. They have their own way of thinking and behaving. Humans think that “bad” behavior seems to come out of nowhere. This is not true. Humans just fail to observe their dogs keenly. So, the “bad” behavior is a failing on the human’s side, not the dog’s side.
From Paul Owens
- When you conduct training, prepare everything you need ahead of time. Collect the treats, collar, leash, or clicker. Prepare the training area by putting up the kennels or exercise areas and taking away any distractions like toys.
- Training is not about stopping a behavior but making your dog do what you want her to do. For example, it is not about stopping her from chewing your shoes but about teaching her to chew her toys instead. Creating a list of the behavior you want will help you a lot in your preparation because you will have a concrete idea of the outcomes you are aiming for.
- Be consistent with training. If she exhibits a “bad” behavior, then don’t pat her on the head.
- Your dog is unique, so she will have things she can and can’t do. Know your dog’s limitations based on her age, physical ability, and emotional maturity. Adjust your training accordingly.
- Always maintain your positivity and project this optimistic outlook to your dog, so both of you enjoy the training.
- Train in small steps. If your dog does not achieve a step, calmly reset by going back to the beginning or to the step your dog successfully managed to accomplish.
Also, remember that your dog could be learning by context. For example, if your dog successfully stops peeing on the kitchen floor tiles, you will have to train her again to stop peeing on the living room floor tiles. This is because the two areas are two separate contexts for your dog.
- Try not to overwhelm your dog with training. A maximum of three minutes per session a few times throughout the day might be enough.
- Reward spontaneously. If your dog exhibits good behavior, then give her a treat or a verbal reward.
- Train your dog to do a task so that her “bad” behavior becomes a source of positive action. For example, turn her excessive chewing behavior by teaching her to chew her toys rather than the sofa cushions. You can also teach your dog to help you bring the grocery from the car to the house instead of jumping all over you when you return from shopping.
- If you are overwhelmed, then don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are professional dog whispering services. Consult your vet or friends.
Search the Internet to check if such services are available in your area. Try searching through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (www.apdt.com).
When you have found a company or organization you like, don’t enroll your dog right away.
Interview the trainers first. Ask what tools they use. Do they use shock collars? So they use force to pin dogs down to the ground? Do they yell at dogs?
Try to observe them while they train other dogs, so you know if their answers match their actions. They may say they don’t shout at dogs but do so during training sessions.
From Cesar Millan
- Establish yourself as the ultimate leader of the pack. Keep control of your dog by establishing your role as the alpha. In this way, your dog will always follow your commands.
Speaking of commands, give these confidently and clearly.
You must always be calm, confident, and project absolute leadership. Keep this mentality even when you have your daily walks with your dog. You should lead your dog. Do not allow your dog to exert her dominance over you. You must be the leader and your dog, the follower.
- Exercise is very important. If your dog does not exercise enough, she might not respond well to training. She might also become bored, lonely, or frustrated, and thus develop bad behaviors.
If she exercises, then she won’t have the energy to find destructive ways to entertain herself. If you don’t have access to exercise kennels, then try using treadmills or other home gym equipment to exercise your dog.
Exercise your dog mentally, too. Give her toys that challenge her mind.
- Develop a consistent routine so that your dog will have a pattern to follow every single day. This will lessen stress or anxiety for your dog. For example, if she knows what time she will eat or what time she will go for a walk, then she will not be anxious about missing meals or not having exercise.
- Learn more about your dog by reading articles or books, or watching videos so that you know how your training will be done. Learn what to do if things work out properly, but, more importantly, know what to do if the training does not go as planned.
Train yourself mentally as well. You need to stay cool even at the most aggravating time. Do not let your frustration or anxiety get the better of you. Training dogs is hard, but you should not let your dog pick up on your negative feelings.
- Set boundaries by being firm on what is and is not acceptable behavior.
- Don’t give mixed signals. Don’t let other people give mixed signals as well. If you consider jumping on strangers as bad behavior, don’t let your friends and family pet your dog when she does it.
- If your dog needs rehabilitation, there are techniques you can use. For example, body blocks (you physical block your dog so she will stay in the space you want her to be in). You can also try the no-mark method (using a verbal or non-verbal sound to indicate that your dog is behaving unacceptably).
These techniques, however, might be difficult to execute properly if you do not have the proper training. For the best results, it might be better to enroll your dog in a dog training facility.
You know your dog best. Whether dog whispering is the best method to train her depends on your evaluation of her personality, physical condition, social behavior, and emotional maturity. After all, you only want what’s best for your dog.