Every person has their own way of communicating with their pet. It could be in a verbal or non-verbal way. These are learned skills we teach our pets throughout their lives.
Our pets are like our children. They do better with a set of rules to follow. With a set of rules or boundaries a pet knows what is allowed or expected of them.
As a therapy dog Maggie has another layer of rules she has to follow on a visit. For instance no jumping or scratching people, and no barking are just a few of the rules. Throughout our visit Maggie will look to me for cues. I will reward her with a treat if she is behaving properly or I will ask the person she is visiting if they would like to give her a treat. If I am talking with an individual Maggie will sit patiently waiting for me to give her instructions.
I am often asked if Maggie is smart. Since she is part poodle (poodle is one of the smartest breeds). I reply that she is indeed smart- she listens when she wants! The truth is when we are on a therapy visit Maggie has learned she is there for a purpose (to give comfort and/or relieve stress to the person she is visiting) and she follows directions very well. But Maggie does have her own mind and at home there are times she doesn’t want to listen. This is why I tell people she listens when she wants!
One of Maggie’s favorite way of communicating with me is what I call her “stare down”. She will come over to me and stare at me until I recognize what she is asking for and I respond.
This generally happens a few times a day. In the morning when she is ready for her walk. In the afternoon when she is hungry and in the evening when she is ready for her evening walk. As she is not the type of dog that barks a lot, her way of communicating works for us. She does have an internal clock that alerts her to her needs and I have a watch (or clock on the wall) that lets me know the actual time.
Some people would get annoyed with a dog staring at them but I actually love it! It makes me feel connected to Maggie. She knows she can come to me when she needs me and I will be able to help her.
It is important to get to know your pet and work on a way of communicating that works for your family. It gives your pet a feeling of love and security.