16 Dec 2019

Puppy power: what we can learn about ourselves from dog psychology

Alright, I admit it. This blog post is an unashamed excuse to talk about my new puppy, Paddy, and share a cute picture!

But…three weeks into dog ownership – a totally new territory for me – something is becoming clear: when it comes to communicating with our four-legged friends, “body language” (nonverbal communication) is crucial. We’re talking facial expressions, body movement and posture, gestures, eye contact, touch, physical space, voice (tone, pace, inflection etc.)

Words do play a part. A quick Google search reveals that the average trained dog knows about 165 words. (Hmm…Paddy clearly has quite a long way to go; his current tally is two – “Paddy” and “sit” – and even the comprehension of those are at his discretion.) But it’s through our body language that we can really connect with our canine companions. Puppies are quick to interpret our moods and intentions by reading our body signals. 

And when it comes to human-to-human interactions, despite the fact that we have verbal language (for an average adult, around 20,000-35,000 words) at our disposal, it’s actually our body language that speaks the loudest:

“Studies have shown that nonverbal communication carries between 65% and 93% more impact than actual words spoken, especially when the message involves emotional meaning and attitudes.” (Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes)

Without a doubt, body language is much more powerful than words – for pups and for people.

We can learn even more about communication and relationships from puppy psychology. These wise words from Cesar Millan (the world’s most sought-after dog behaviourist) can also teach us a thing or two about ourselves: 

  • A dog’s “Pack Leader” should be calm and assertive. If your dog sees that you’re relaxed and confident, he’ll more likely feel that way too. We’d say that this applies to our managers and leaders at work too!
  • Regular eye contact will reinforce your relationship and reassure them. But don’t attempt to out-stare your dog.  Again, great tips for our human-to-human interactions 🙂 
  • Boredom is the enemy. A bored dog can become anxious and destructive. And this can happen to us at work (and in our personal lives) when we don’t get enough challenge or purpose.
  • Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool. Dogs love immediate praise when they get things right. And so do we!
  • Dogs live in the moment and you should too. Millan says: “Being obsessed with the past or future can lead to many negative emotions. Dogs do not hold grudges or brood about the past. Letting go of what is over and done, and of what we can’t control, is the path to our own fulfilment in the here and now.” We couldn’t agree more.

I’m sure we’ll discover more similarities (and differences) as the months go by. We’ll report back! And if any dog lovers out there have any other observations, we’d love to hear from you