Communication can be described as a transmission of information between one animal and another, or between groups of animals, with the intention of affecting behavior. Typically, communication takes place using signals that may include verbal, tactile, odors, facial expressions and body movements. The communication exchange will usually have three components.
the animal sending the message
the animal receiving the message and
the communication signal.
The purpose of the message is to change the attitude, mood or behavior of the recipient. The receivers response indicates whether the senders message, the function of the behavior, has served its purpose.
Dogs use their body to communicate visually, using the position of their ears, mouth, face, tail, hair, posture and position, to identify their emotional state. However,with variability among breeds, this is not always reliable. Postural signals change according to the dogs" emotion and mood flowing from one set of signals to another.
As we learn to interpret the exchange of body language and emotion between humans and dogs, we should bear in mind that any such exchange must serve some purpose for both participants. Because dogs use various postures to indicate their relationships to their environment, we need to recognize them as valuable clues about their emotional life; and we must not only recognize the signals, we must learn to assign appropriate meanings to them. Otherwise,we'll never get the most from our relationships with our dogs.
It is unrealistic to expect all dogs to grow up automatically to behave like Lassie. If owners understandably have rules and regulations as to how they would like their dog to behave, they should not keep these rules a secret from the dog. Otherwise, the poor dog will predictably break rules that he didn't even know existed and no doubt, be punished for these inevitable transgressions.
Both threatening and friendly signals help regulate canine social behavior. This social system serves to establish social status and preserve social unity. Many of these signals are instinctive and used without much voluntary control. Some signals are modified by the influence of experience. Communication signals are used to confirm or reject information received from others andserve the purpose of indicating one"s species, sex, sexual receptivity, status, and in general to negotiate social interactions.
There's a huge difference in how humans and canines interpret various actions. When some being violates canine social rules, often a growl or bite is issued. That's a problem since they live in a world controlled by humans, who while tolerating varying degrees of physical retribution/reactions from humans (spanking, slapping, hollering, sometimes more depending on the individual) do not tolerate such physical expressions from nonhuman animals.
Body language is nothing more than an external expression of an internal state. It is possible to change an emotional state by changing body posture and vice versa. This is why the advice to 'Stand up straight, smile and you'll feel better' actually works! In the case of aggression, imagine how hard it would be to be angry if you were sitting in a comfortable chair with your face and head relaxed.
How do dogs perceive us? How do they try to communicate with us?
Dogs are constantly watching us. They study our every move. Our dogs are studying our body language and reacting accordingly. Are you sad? Your dog knows. Are you happy? Your dog knows. Are you angry? Your dog knows.
Dogs are extremely perceptive to movement. Dogs know how we feel and our intentions from across the yard. Have you ever accidentally run into your dog in the yard at night when it's totally dark? If so, then you know that at first, your dog probably barked at you as if you were an intruder. However, the moment you move your dog recognizes you. Every person moves differently and castes a different silhouette, just like every person has a different finger print.
Dogs do not need us to speak to them to understand what we are saying.. Dogs are very consistent creatures and understand consistency well, so if we are consistent with our actions, they will learn our words and actions faster. The human sounds that dogs learn are learnt by association. They associate the sounds with an action or an object. Most times dogs do better with only hand signals and very few words.
Dogs see us as emotional creatures. Dogs will also mirror our emotional states, our patterns and our intentions. This is evident in how they respond to our tone of voice. High pitched voices will get a dog excited, while low pitched voices may make your dog cower, submit, or walk away. We see this in dogs when they interact with each other as well. Warnings are often given by one dog to another with a low-pitched growl. Higher pitched barking between dogs is used to demonstrate feelings of excitement or play. A play bark is a high pitched bark that can be annoying. It is accompanied by what is called a play bow. Dogs learn most everything from play, but we should habituate our dogs to accepting our direction in any tone of voice. We are emotional creatures, hence your dog should respond even when you are stressed or in a panic. I recently trained one of the service dogs to respond to a whisper as her owner had episodes of losing her voice.
Dogs show emotion with every part of their bodies. These are movements of the ears, eyes, eyebrows, mouth, head, tail, and entire body, as well as barks, growls, whines and whimpers, and howls. These signals are often subtle, but by developing good observational skills we can gain valuable insight into what a dog might be feeling. Sometimes you will need to look at clues from more than one body part and also consider context clues from the environment to figure out how the dog might be feeling. Most people know the signs of a happy tail wagging dog, but often the tail does not give the only clues. You need to look at the whole dog and the environmental context to get the whole picture.
We need to recognize when our dogs are trying to communicate with us. If your dog is scratching at the water or food bowl and then looking at you, then obviously she is thirsty or hungry. If your dog is trying to get your attention, try to figure out why. It can only benefit you. Also, when you communicate with your dog, remember to stay calm, cool, and collected. If the dog acts out, keep in mind that she may not be able to help it. If you get frustrated, it will only make things worse. Take a break and try again later if this happens. Keep a healthy line of communication open with your dog, and she will do the same with you. You will both be happy, and sane!