How to "Read" Your Puppy


Puppy Point of View


“Inseeing” is a term used by some trainers to describe seeing from your dog’s point of view. It does not refer to the anthropomorphizing of pets -- the romantic human notion that our domestic animals feel and think in the same way that we do, projecting our human characteristics onto our pets’ behavior. Animals have their own ways of thinking and feeling, and to live with them successfully, it is helpful to consider this, and to consider all aspects of your dog as you observe it -- its eyes, ears, mouth, body and tail.


Try this imaginative activity. Step into your young puppy’s life, imagining yourself in her place, looking out through her eyes. Do not include verbal communication in your imagining yet. Now look to the (real) human that is closest to you. Try to interpret the human’s body language using the natural abilities a dog possesses. What feelings are you "reading"? How should you respond? Should you look straight into the human’s eyes, or would that be interpreted by the human as a challenge? Observe the human’s face and body. Which posture is sending a message of dominance? Which is invit­ing?


Now listen to the voice. As much as possible, try to focus only on the emotions of the language, not to the meaning of the words – remember, dogs have a limited understanding of human language, they depend almost solely on context and the feeling in the voice. Consider the tone of the voice. Is it cheerful? Is it harsh and abrupt? Do you hear whining sounds beneath the words or are they spoken with confidence?


Next, lower yourself physically to the vantage point of your dog. Scout around the room, observing what you see. Note the shoes at the door, the potted plants, the comfy furniture, the chewy electrical cords; from the eye level of a puppy, which of these temptations would prove to be irresistible to you?  


This "pup's-eye-view" activity can help you to understand your puppy a little better so that you can tailor your response to his “bad” behavior. By interpreting the dog’s behavior in a more realistic way and being actively engaged in helping him to avoid the things that will get him into trouble with you, you will be making major headway in the appropriate training of your dog.


As you understand your dog’s behavior better, you will also be better able to estimate your dog’s capabilities for understanding commands. Keep in mind that almost all puppies are not going to be capable of learning everything you need them to know all at once, but will learn with repetition, consistency, patience, and realistic rewards, such as affection and small training treats.


Image: Tambako the Jaguar / via Flickr