What is a dog whisperer?

The Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan
The Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan

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.

What is a Dog Whisperer?
What is a Dog Whisperer?

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.

Dog Whisperer Doggy Dan
Dog Whisperer Doggy Dan

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?

What is a Dog Whisperer?
What is 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.

Comments 14

  • I’ve been rescuing puppies for a few years now and I think this article is great advice for people like me. All my pets have been rescued and I’ve come across some “troubled” puppies that require a lot of patience and discipline to rehabilitate to be with other dogs or people, which is something I can’t always provide due to inexperience. I think this article is a great help to learn how to communicate with them and teach them to be calm and submissive. I don’t consider myself a great pack leader but will surely try out these suggestions to better myself as a rescuer.

    • Dog whispering is certainly the right method when dealing with traumatized dogs and puppies. In order to rehabilitate them you do need to understand what bothers them.  Of course my post only briefly covers what dog whispering is and how it can be used but at least you know where to start. It is time consuming but a very effective method.

      You can certainly become a great packleader. The main thing is to act like one. Be patient, firm and sure of yourself. The dogs will feel this and follow you.

      I wish you the best of luck. The rescue work you are doing is really important and if there is anything I can do to help just write to me.

      Jojo

  • I’ve always wondered what a dog whisperer was and just assumed it was in the same class as like a palm reader or some sort of mind reader haha but I was definitely wrong. Using a dog whisperer definitely sounds like a useful way learn your dog’s emotions and better understand them. I definitely will be reading more into becoming a dog whisperer because I want to recognize my dog’s emotions other than just excited or angry.

    • There is nothing magic about being a dog whisperer. It is just a question of understanding dogs and be able to read them. It takes time and patience but it is certainly worth it as it will not only help you to train your dog but it will also get you closer to him/her as you will understand each other better.

  • This is a great read. I have dogs my entire life and as time has gone by, I’ve become more interested and determined to better my ability to ‘speak’ to and train my dogs. If only everyone did this, all dogs would be a dream.

    • Yes, understanding the dogs is really the most important thing in order to train them and to bond with them. I think all dog owners should do this.

  • I love dogs, but it kills me to see a dog that hasn’t been trained with enough care to help it overcome certain fears or anxieties. I always wish that every dog owner actually takes the time to learn to speak to their dogs in the proper manner that is effective. I’ve had dogs all my life and as time goes by, I want to learn more and more about how to better train my dogs to live a happy life.

    • You are right. The cause of most dog related problems is due to the fact that people don’t understand what is wrong. Then they take the wrong cause of action and the problem gets worse. It is very important to be able understand your dogs and this is something all dog owners should strive for. A lot of problems can be avoided if the owner is well educated from the beginning. On the other hand with some help practically all dog related problems can be solved.

  • Hello! my name is Alice! I really like how organize are your information! I always watched Cesar Millan’s tv serie but right now I don’t have a tv. This page is very useful and help a lot to those who have a dog.

    Wish you the best! and I would like to know about other animals like cats.

    • Hi there,

      thank you for your comment and your kind words. I like cats very much and I had one for many years but unfortunately I do not plan to include cats into my website. I already have a lot to do with dog training. You can watch Cesar Millan on your computer or tablet. Just go to this address: http://www.natgeotv.com/ca/dog

      All the best, kindest regards,

      Jojo

  • I had a dog many years ago and I was really close to her. I didn’t train my dog (she was Pekingese) and I didn’t learn dog body language but I did understand her with my heart.
    It is really a great feeling to be able to read a dog as they are very vulnerable due to their true love to humans. So we have to do our best to understand them and help when needed.

  • Excellent article! I agree with everything you said. Dogs can pick up emotions from their pack leaders very well. My Bella knows when I am happy, sad or upset and she acts accordingly. She is an amazing dog.
    I watched Ceasar work with that one dog and saw he got bit but for the most part, he kept his cool and stayed on the dig in a dominant position and the dog submitted.
    It just goes to show that you can teach an old dog out of some bad habits. Thank you for the great article!

    • You are welcome, I am glad you liked it. Dogs really are very sensitive and can read emotions better than we humans do. That is why it is so important to be sure of yourself when assert yourself as the packleader, the dog really needs to feel that you have self confidence and are in control.

      Jojo

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