Silence is Golden

imagesThere is a lot nowadays in books and the media about humans reading the language of dogs, a pioneer of this being Turid Rugaas in her book On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals. 

There is less said about how dogs read us humans. We humans do like to use words, anything from commands to continual background chatter. We only tend tend to consciously use body signals to comunicate with our dogs when employing exaggerated signs to replace words in training or distance work.

Roger Abrantes suggests on the Ecology Institute Cambridge website, ‘Our dogs, I’m sure, think that we talk too much and say too little. My advice to dog owners: when you cannot improve on silence, be quiet’.

His short video beautifully demonstrates the instant connection between him and dogs who don’t even know him – all action and very few words.

Human beings love talking. Dogs may vocalise, but it’s not verbal. Words are the least salient means of communication to our dogs.

Try this: ask your dog to sit in your usual manner – and preferably video it. You will probably find you nod your head slightly or make some sort of movement with a hand. Now try again, keeping dead still and saying the word ‘Sit’ just once. Very likely the dog will do nothing. Now try the nod or slight hand movement without the word ‘Sit, and wait. There is every chance your dog will sit.

Abrantes finishes, ‘Dogs are connoisseurs of silence. Instead of so much talking, I’m convinced your dog would value immensely more a friendly glance or a tiny pacifying gesture. In other words: if you don’t have anything important to communicate to your dog, keep quiet.

Here is the story of a dog I went to that had been bombarded with words, which left him no opportunity to work things out for himself.

Here is my main website with stories of many dogs I have visited:


About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site:
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