What a dog known to police can tell us about improving communications.
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Issue 7    September, 2013

Sue HornerDear Sue2,
Your dog may "speak" to you, but there's still a language barrier between humans and pets. In the workplace, we can also be caught in situations where our words are taken the wrong way, even when we speak the same language. This issue of Wordnerdery finds six lessons from dog training that can improve communications.
Sue's signature

Are you communicating, or barking up the wrong tree?

A dog known to policeMy resident black Labrador retriever, Jake, is known to police.

While Jake was staying with my parents one weekend, he lunged and barked at a passing dog. This earned my usually sweet boy a description as “vicious” in a report to the pet police, who tracked him down by his name, breed and neighbourhood.

The officer let Jake off with a warning, but his rap sheet is on file. So I looked for advice, finding a book about communicating with dogs and the signals you give them (not always intentionally). The book is The Other End of the Leash – Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia B. McConnell.

The author talks about how what seems to be doggy disobedience is simply a case of miscommunication. Communicating with people may be just as apt to go wrong, even when you speak the same language. Here are six tips that can improve communications with both pets and people:
  1. Don’t expect others to read your mind.
  2. Be clear about what you want the other (whether person or pet) to do.
  3. Be calm and respectful. Bullying and dominating others may prove you are the alpha dog, but it will damage your relationship in the long run.
  4. If you’re in charge, take charge; being vague or indecisive confuses both people and pets.
  5. Be consistent.
  6. Match your body language to what you say. Humans and animals are both excellent at sniffing out conflict or insincerity.
If you have a pet, have you learned anything that can be applied to people? Hit "reply" and tell me about it! And let me know if you need help sending the right signals.

Images: Jake by Sue Horner. Sue by Chris Salvo,

Related links

More on Patricia McConnell and her life with dogs.

The Dog Whisperer explains common dog behaviour.

From the Red Jacket Diaries blog

Speaking of improving communications, here are six ways to improve email subject lines.

Things we can learn from dogs, like "eat with gusto" and "take naps."


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