As Cesar says, “Life is simple. We make it complicated.” He also says, “Communication creates partnership,” so if we’re not communicating, we can’t have a relationship, whether it’s romantic, or with friends or family.
With people, the blocks to communication are all intellectual or emotional — we don’t listen to what the other person is actually saying, or we build defensive walls to protect our egos. As Cesar always says, “Humans will tell you a story. Dogs tell you the truth.” When we fall into the trap of storytelling in our relationships, we fail to communicate and so cannot have a true partnership.
In communicating with each other, dogs only tell the truth. If one dog isn’t interested in another one, that dog won’t pretend; he’ll just walk away. If a puppy is being really annoying to an adult dog, she won’t put up with it to be polite; she’ll correct the puppy, and the puppy won’t resent it.
Dogs don’t tell stories because they don’t have the tools to do so. They can only communicate with their energy and body language (which includes various barks, growls, and so on), and these are communication tools that do not include deception.
A dog that is fearful or timid isn’t going to pretend to be brave so that others leave him alone. A possessive dog isn’t going to share food or toys just to be friends with another dog. An aggressive dog is going to show it.
Think about how different this is from human relationships. Maybe one half of a couple really wants to go out to dinner and a movie, while the other one is too tired — but then pretends not to be just to make their partner happy, instead of explaining, “I would love to, but I’m worn out and not in the mood.”
The reason humans do that is (they think) to avoid conflict. The tired partner might believe that a refusal to go out will be taken personally and lead to an argument — “If you loved me, you’d go out tonight.” If they communicated like dogs did, the difference in energy levels would be obvious and would send the message: We’re not both interested in doing the same thing tonight, it has nothing to do with either of us, and that’s okay.
If storytelling instead of truth as communication can mess up human relationships, imagine what it can do to your relationship with your dog. For one thing, if you act in a way that doesn’t match the signals you’re sending with your energy and body language, your dog will sense this, and may wind up losing trust in you.
You’ll also have problems if you make up a story to explain your dog’s behavior — “she tore up the sofa because she resents me,” or, “he barks at my neighbor because he doesn’t like him.” In the first case, she was probably destructive because she was bored or frustrated while you were out, but it really has nothing to do with feelings about you; rather, it had everything to do with what the dog was feeling in the moment. In the second case, ask yourself how you feel about your neighbor and how you react in their presence. That’s probably what your dog is picking up on.
What our dogs need to “hear” from us is consistency, and a connection between our energy, body language, intentions, and feelings. They don’t need a lot of words from us. In fact, they don’t really need any words, and communicating silently with your dog is probably the best way to reinforce your position as Pack Leader and the bond between you.
Once you’ve learned how to “talk” to your dog without words and to listen to what she is telling you, try the same technique with people. Tune into their energy and body language, and you’ll start to hear what they’re really saying. You’ll begin to see the truth instead of hear the story, and you’ll be better able to reply with the truth instead of a story of your own.
Dogs may be our closest animal companions, but they are also our greatest teachers. Your dog has been trying to teach you to communicate all along. It’s time to start listening to and learning from them.