The biggest complaint people have about animals is not being able to understand them. How do you get them to understand what you want? How can you develop the skill to understand them? . . . And can you really do it? The answers are simple, you can develop the skill, and you can do it if your really want to!
Learning to talk with your animal is much more simple than trying to learn a new language since most of their communication is through non-verbal or physical posturing. To break through the barriers of inter-species communication we have to pay attention and be less verbal. This requires us to be quiet and just observe. It actually seems very hard to do since we have been taught to communicate through words, and we confuse matters by thinking too much and attaching our interpretations to everything.
Animals are pretty clear when they communicate. Unfortunately most owners, or people who work with them have not been taught to how listen to animals. The idea that animals are not intelligent, emotional, or complex is a myth that has endured for ages. Animals actually have their own cultures and behaviors that are just as different from each other in the same manner that human societies and individuals are. They have likes and dislikes just as humans do and they also have tremendous learning potential. We can learn many things from them and they can earn many things from us. Think of child development and how you can help a child socially by exposure to different environments, experiences, and how you can stimulate their senses and capacity to learn with the proper toys and exposure to new learning. The same holds true for animals; just as some humans have more capacity for learning and development over others, so do animals.
One of the other myths is that you can't "train an old dog new tricks" You really can train older animals, but it takes care and attention to their needs. Often, it is like taking a senior citizen and teaching them new skills or techniques; the reactions and ability are there, but they are slower.
There are myths about training younger animals which fall into the same category. Animals that are young are very easily trained to do the right things instead of letting them grow up learning bad habits or without giving them guidance. They "learn to learn" much more easily when they are young and get very excited about it. The difference is that they have little attention span and need to have learning surrounded in fun and encouragement, not strict long lessons! It is also important not to repeat the lessons too often or they will get bored and not want to do them anymore!
One of the other obstacles to giving animals credit for what they can do, feel, and experience is the scientific mode of thinking. People, animals and plants are all living creatures, not things. To look at them within any limited viewpoint is not good. If you take a holistic approach and begin to connect with animals, understand them, and help them evolve, you will reap great benefits. You will also open a can of worms about their care and treatment!
In the evolution of life, we all have changed in our awareness, our understanding, and our actions over the years. Many have been able to develop more in some areas than others. To move forward we have to change, forgive, and continue to learn. We also have to let go of the past and learn from those mistakes so we don't repeat them! Our awareness and understanding of animals now requires that we change our actions and our approach to them as well.
Our relationships and approach to animals, their environment and our relationships with them is at a very important turning point and it is time to wake up and do something progressive. Each individual can do something from their own home, neighborhood, or community. Animal training and communication, backyard conservation, and commitment to the environment are small steps each person can take. Many are mystified by people who work so closely with animals. How do you recognize them? Are they different from each other? Are they smart? Do they have favorite foods? Are they afraid of different things? All those questions are easily answered by the professional. What about everyone else? Could you learn how to recognize different individual animals and relate to them? The answer is YES, and it is not so complicated as you might think.
Everyone has different skill levels for learning. If you practice and are patient, you can develop more skill but how? Start with the following seven steps and practice using them for a least thirty days. Once a day is enough; it takes thirty days to develop any habit. Have fun with this and don't be too serious; you will find that it will soon become easier.
The first step in learning to communicate with your animal, or any animal, is to acknowledge that they are different and are special because of that. Respect and love are important here. Once you recognize them as different and not inferior it will open up your mind. This makes you more able to communicate. The idea that animals do not understand more than a few words is ridiculous! Look at how much we do not understand about them and their communication!
Most animals use non-verbal communication anyway, we should learn that too. You can teach them to understand a language much like you do a child: One word or concept at a time, and by explaining things. It is similar to having a human visitor from another country; you cannot expect a foreign-raised human or animal to understand your language unless they are taught, and usually it takes effort from both sides!
We are animals too and we forget that. Our communication and teaching can be given, and we can receive the same gift from those animals with whom we come in contact. These animals can be wild, domestic, captive zoo residents, or our own pets. You just need to start by looking at them, giving them a chance and then taking the chance yourself.
Even if you have had an animal for years and have never attempted to communicate or involve it in social interactions, you can start by taking slow baby steps just as if your were learning to walk or do any other new activity. To learn or acquire any new skill requires practice and patience! To do so you only need to begin to learn to communicate.
The second step is to deal with that animal out of respect, understanding and developing trust. Without developing this solid foundation why would the animal want to deal with you? That relationship and the expectation of a different type of relationship with any animal will help you become more open as it also assists your animal friends to becoming more open.
Many people do not communicate with animals respectfully. They make strange noises, are rude, and throw things to get the animal's attention. Sometimes people have an inaccurate view of an animal or a species; look at reptiles, as an example, they are sleek and effective animals but most people are horrified or afraid of them.
The third step is to pay attention to that animal. Watch the animal as it reacts to you or the surroundings. How are the ears positioned? Is the mouth open or closed? Is the posture stiff or relaxed? If they have a tail, in what position is it? How is that tail moving? What senses do they use? From what perspective do they see things? What activities are they good at? How do they act when they greet each other? What about greeting people? How do they act when they are fed? Are afraid? Or are they happy? What kind of etiquette do you use with them?
Once you start looking closely and REALLY pay attention, a whole new world opens up to you. Many times animals have to develop outrageous behaviors to get our attention. Why do some dogs jump and others don't? It is because some have learned that the only way they can get their owner's attention is by jumping! Have you ever had a dog just come up and lean against you instead? If you observe, many times it is because those dogs have a clear communication channel with their owners. It is nice to have that type of relationship!
The fourth step is to be quiet and observe. When people are being trained to work with animals professionally, most are not allowed to interact or talk with those animals. It makes them aware of what the animals are doing and also lets the animals observe them and get comfortable. Those relationships are not forced and usually develop into very strong bonds with clear communication channels both ways.
How long have you watched your animals at home? Do you really just sit and watch them and how they react to other animals, to you, visitors, or changes? Start observing and you will be amazed.
The fifth thing to do is learn to act on impressions or pictures you get. Animals will send pictures or mental impressions you can receive if you are open to them. This requires that you really quiet your chattering mind and trust that it will happen. It works like when you are thinking about a friend and they call or show up within a short amount of time! It is a telepathic link.
If you have ever watched groups of animals, you can see this in action. Birds fly in intricate patterns, turning in an instant as one body. Fish school in groups that flash and shimmer in a synchronistic manner that shames even the best choreographer. This telepathic and instinctive link is why.
The next thing to do is to not dismiss what you feel or suspect; you should acknowledge it and have fun with it. If you do this things will get easier. Practice everyday with those animals you are close to. You can also try sending things back to the animal in the form of pictures or other impressions.
Many times owners have problems getting the animal to do the right thing, or what they want, because they are sending out the WRONG mental picture. What you want and what you expect need to be the same, otherwise you will send the wrong picture or message! Another obstacle is that some owners just cannot keep quiet long enough to let the animal think and respond!
The last step you may want to take is to use your imagination. Think about how your animal sees things. What could be perceived as harmful or dangerous? Do you see color? Shadows? Is your sense of smell so strong that some scents hurt or overwhelm you? What about natural instinct, how will that affect you? Play with this idea and be open to receiving images, you may be surprised. It reminds me of when I visited my elementary school as an adult. I was shocked at how small things were, since my memory from childhood was that things were much larger. That was a true impression from the childhood memory where I was smaller and had a different perspective!
Put yourself in the animal's position; imagine what it would be like to live a life from their perspective. What would it be like to have heightened senses, walk on all fours, have a tail, be covered in fur, or have no sweat glands to cool yourself?
Start today. Take each step and apply what fits. Observe and practice skills or tips daily and remember to relax and have fun!
Diana Guerrero has achieved international recognition for her work with both wild and domesticated animals. Working with some of the most endangered species in the world, she is known for her unique training methods using trust, respect and understanding as a foundation. Diana can be reached through Ark Animals Behavior Consulting and Training at (619) 599-3697 or (800) 818-7387, or you can E-mail her at email@example.com
Return to the July/August Index page