The term “Dog Whisperer” have been heard frequently during the last years, thanks to the TV series with Cesar Millan. Many people might wonder: What is a dog whisperer and what does it mean to be one? What can the dog whisperer do to train dogs and to solve various dog related problems? Is dog whispering a dog training method or is it an ability
people are born with? In this post I will explain what a dog whisperer is and how dog whispering can be used to train your dog.
The term dog whisperer is fairly new and was probably used for the first time in the TV-series with Cesar Millan. They actually got this term from the book The horse whisperer written by the author Nicolas Evans. In 1998 the book turn into a film starring Robert Redford. So the term dog whisperer is a modified version of the “horse whisperer”.
Whispering as method or way of working with animals is not in any way new. It have been around for as long as people have been interacting with animals, which is as long as we have existed. Now let’s see what a dog whisperer is and what he or she does.
The Dog whisperer can he/she talk with dogs?
So what does it mean to be a dog whisperer? Well dog whispering is simply a way of communicating with our dogs. Dogs can not speak our language and can only learn a few commands. A dog whisperer communicates with dogs by using his/her body language. The body language in combination with gestures is what is used to “speak” to the dogs. Then in return, by reading your dogs “body language” and expression’s you can understand the mood of your dog, correct it, or reassure it.
Body language such as facial expression’s, body stance and different growls and barks is what your dog is using to communicate with you (and with other dogs). By correctly reading his/her dogs body language the dog whisperer knows if his dog understands, if she is confused, scared, angry and so on.
When rehabilitating a troublesome dog, dog whispering is very effective as the dog whisperer can “read” the dog in different situations and figure what the problem might be. Then he/she can show the dog the right behavior and by remaining calm, firm and confident the dog will obey.
So a dog whisperer can communicate with dogs by reading their body language and by using his/her own body language to make the dog understand what he/she wants. The dog whisperer can not really “talk” to dogs the way we humans talk to each other but can make him/herself (to a limit) understood.
In order to make dog whispering work you must first establish yourself as the pack leader. A firm but gentle leadership is what is going to make your dog listen to you. The dog will follow its instincts and follow you as soon as it sees you as the pack leader. This is important for all dog training but absolutely necessary when it comes to dog whispering. Your dog must feel confident and secure and the only way to achieve this is through your strong leadership.
It is very important that the dog whisperer shows how he wants his/her dog to act by acting the same way himself.
With this I don’t mean that you should act like a dog but simply show your dog how you want it to behave. For example, if your dog is aggressive and is barking and growling at someone or something then you must remain calm and in control. If you get stressed and exited by the situation it is going to be difficult to get your dog to calm down as your own behavior will reinforce your dog’s belief that something poses a threat. Here is one video with Cesar Millan dealing with Holly, a dog who is very aggressive when she is fed. You can see how his body langauage and self confidence is making Holly calm and submissive.
Some examples of signs dogs use to tell us something
Here are some examples on how you can read your dog by learning what its different gestures and expression’s mean. Some of these signs are pretty obvious to most people. A dog “yapping”, wagging its tail coming to you with something in her mouth, most probably wants to play whereas a dog baring its teeth and growling is showing an aggressive behavior. However, sometimes the signs your dog show is not that obvious.
For example a dog feeling stressed could turn his head away from you, walk slowly, lick his lips and nose, “freeze” on the spot, sniffing the ground and nervous yawning. If there is no response from the owner then the dog might start to bark. Being able to recognize signs like these will allow you to calm your dog down before its fear and/or anger escalates.
These expression’s mean that your dog is trying to tell you something or he might want to tell another dog in the surrounding’s something. The knowledge of what your dog’s body language is trying to say will in almost all cases help you to prevent a dog fight before it takes place.
Signs and body language of the dog whisperer
You can say that half the job of being a dog whisperer is reading your dogs signs, signals and reactions, the other half is showing your dog what to do or how to act using your own signs, signals and body language. This is how you communicate with your dog. Your mood or “energy” is of great importance. You need to remain calm and in control otherwise your dog will get nervous and unsure. Dogs are very sensitive to this, so it is very difficult to hide your emotions to them. If you are upset, worried or even happy, your dog is going to feel it.
Apart from your mood and energy level there are also certain actions you do which can show your dog the right way to act. You can see in this video with Doggy Dan when he is working with a dog who is aggressive towards people. The dog (a big powerful guy) is very aggressive towards anybody who enters the owner’s property. Dan asks the owner to turn his back on Dan, gently grab the dog underneath the chin and then block his vision of the “intruder” by getting between his dog and Dan. The dog calms down immediately.
The fact that the owner turns his back towards “the intruder” is a signal for dog the saying his owner is not scared of the person coming in and since the owner is not scared then the dog does not have to be scared either. Nobody (dog or human) would turn their back on something dangerous so to the dog this is a clear sign that the person entering the property is nothing to be scared off.
So this is one example of how dog whispering can be used to solve a potentially dangerous and annoying problem simply by using signs that a dog can understand.
Can anyone become a dog whisperer?
The answer to that is YES! Anyone can become a dog whisperer. Dog whispering can be seen as a dog training method but it is just as much a philosophy and a way to bond with your dog. Learning to read your dog’s signals, moods, level of energy are important tools for successfully training your dog and dog whispering can successfully be used together with another training method such as reward training or clicker training.
Dog whispering does require a fair amount of patience. It also means you have to learn and study dog behavior and dog psychology. Work is involved but also rewards. Being able to “read” your dog and understand him/her, knowing her moods, fear and desires will not only help you to train your dog but you will also be able to bond with him/her and get a really close relationship.
Dog whispering is really a natural way of communicating with and training a dog. Like already mentioned, Cesar Millan has used it with great success and he is self-taught. If he can do this so can you. Doggy Dan is another known dog trainer who also uses this method. Doggy Dan does not use the term “Dog Whisperer” but you can see in his videos that this is the strategy he is using. Doggy Dan also stresses the point the reason a lot of people fail is that they don’t understand how dogs think and what the different signs and expression’s dogs show mean. Often the dog does not understand what the owner means and the owner can not understand what his/her dog is trying to tell him.
So understanding what your dog means and what your actions and behavior means to a dog is really what dog whispering is all about.
If you would like to learn more about dog whispering and how this method is used when training or rehabilitating “troublesome dogs” I would suggest that you take a look at Doggy Dan’s Online Dog Trainer program. It consists of a number of videos showing you exactly the methods he is using when working with clients dogs. You can find more information and an introductory video by Doggy Dan Here.