Listen to Your Dog

Canines Unlimited - 907-790-DOGS

Also See:
Training Philosophy
Puppy Kinder./Basic Obedience

#1. Can You "Hear" Your Dog? (Try the"water test") Jan. 1, 2008 Newsletter

Perhaps the single most important skill you can develop in working with your dog, it is to learn how to really listen to your dog, bring the information you receive into your consciousness and lastly, act upon it. In my 18 years as an obedience instructor/groomer/consultant and almost 30 years working with dogs, I have discovered that most handlers/trainers/owners have far more skills than they are aware of, and much greater ability to understand and communicate with their dog, than they believe they have.

The ability to truly hear our dogs (or any pet) lies within each one of us. Some are naturally better at it than others, but the ability can be developed by anyone, if you wish to develop it. It does not take a rocket scientist, or a genius, or someone with "special" talents. It does take a willingness to be open to all possibilities, a setting aside of ego, and the time needed to make a connection and follow it up.

Your dog listens/hears with every cell in their body. Can you do the same? Try a simple test.

Materials needed:
Two bowls (size appropriate for your dog to drink out of, preferably exactly the same); two different kinds of drinking water (use your dog's normal drinking water for one of them). Try filtered water, spring water, rain water or maybe Smart water (non-flavored, with electrolytes).

Place a second bowl, next to your dog's normal water bowl, and add the other kind of drinking water. Change and replace both bowls of water on the same schedule. Do the test over the course of several days. Measure or note in some way, how much of water of each kind, that your dog drinks. The more detail you can record, the better, such as how your dog chose the one he drank, when it was consumed, what activity preceded it, etc. Video tape the selection process, if you can.

Which one did your dog choose? Do you know why? How do you know? (Visual? Auditory? Intuitive?) Redo the test in a week. Are your results the same?

Application and comments:
After many years of observations and trials, I believe the animals are much more in tune to what their bodies need, than we are. They don't get bombarded by advertising. Given choices, over time, they will chose that which is (energetically) needed or correct for their situation. They "listen" to what their body says it needs, and then choose accordingly. It is by "listening" or noticing these actions or choices, that we gain a great deal of insight into how our pets are feeling, when things change, and ultimately why they change. The first step is to notice the change(s) or differences. The second step it to act upon that knowledge. Sometimes we get there by chance.

A Real Case-Peter:
Many years ago, I noticed that Peter, my little golden/border collie, seemed to prefer drinking from the bucket of water I kept outside in the back yard, which collected rain water all the time, rather than drinking from his water bowl in the house. I thought the tap water would be better because it was cleaner and healthier.

As I gained more knowledge about the differences in water, its sources, additives, and what they do, I began to realize Peter was making choices for better health. Only he did it on the basis of some other system rather than intellectual learning or advertising. He had not read the reports, didn't engage in laboratory testing of the water and had not called anyone about it. Somehow, he just sensed that rain water was better for him.

As Peter got older, and as I learned more about different foods and water, I decided to give him even more choices, since he clearly had ideas on what he could or could not eat. So I started putting down even more kinds of drinking water. Soon he had a "water bar" of choices, including filtered, rain, artesian, Smart (electrolytes) and spring water. Some had a high PH value, some more minerals, etc. He would stand over each bowl, carefully "scanning" each one, usually choosing to drink mostly Smart water, but also including a few laps from several of the other bowls.

Over time, I learned to listen and trust Peter's choices, since he seemed to know what he was doing. I read, studied, and did consults with veterinarians who were very knowledgeable about diets and foods. When he finally departed, at the age of 15 and a half, his full panel blood work showed only one value out of range, and that by only three points. Pretty impressive!

There are many stories of these great teachers in our lives. If we can learn to listen to what they "tell" us, we can greatly enhance the quality and length of their lives, which translates into a higher quality relationship (more fun, greater cooperation, fewer medical bills), and practical things like less shedding, stronger immune systems (less often sick) and better behavior.

But those will be in other newsletters, helping you to learn to recognize what you already know, and do something about it.

If you have a story you would like to share, please e-mail it to


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Canines Unlimited
Martha Fischbach, Owner
P.O. Box 34496, Juneau, Alaska 99803

Phone/fax: 907-790-3647