I want you to take a moment to think of the most powerful thing you can. Maybe it’s an elephant. They seem pretty strong. But an earthquake is clearly stronger than an elephant, and so is a nuclear bomb.
Tornadoes and volcanoes are more powerful than nukes, but think bigger. The sun is very powerful. In one second, the sun dumps more energy on the earth than all humans use in an entire year. And there are lots of stars bigger than the sun.
But what I’m thinking of is powerful for a different reason. That’s because it’s something that is almost impossible to experience but, when you do, it will change your world. So, what is it?
Think about the last time you experienced total silence in your life. Unless you are profoundly hearing impaired, you cannot remember that time because it never happened. The only way to make it happen now is to go to the anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis.
Called “the quietest room in the world,” nobody has been able to spend more than forty-five minutes inside. People have reported hallucinations, disorientation, and panic just by sitting in that room in the dark with almost no sound. It’s so quiet that they begin to hear their own blood flowing through their veins.
Now think about all of those powerful things I mentioned before again. Other than stars, every one of them is pretty loud — and the only reason that stars aren’t loud is because they’re in space, where there is no sound.
And yet none of those loud things is as powerful as silence on an individual level.
Why? Because sounds inspire an external reaction. When people hear thunder, they react physically, often in fear or excitement. But when people are confronted by silence, they have an internal reaction. If you’ve ever gotten the silent treatment from a loved one, you know what I mean. The less they say, the more you start thinking, “Okay, what did I do wrong?”
Dogs work the same way, and less is more when it comes to loud noises. In fact, to dogs, sound is of lesser importance, because they perceive the world in this order: nose, eyes, ears.
Sniff it, see it, hear it.
As I’ve said many times, animals communicate through energy and body language, and you can see this by observing any group of dogs together, like at the dog park. Barking is reserved for getting attention from a distance. Otherwise, they speak to each other through intention, posture, and the position of their heads, ears, and tails.
You can see this when one dog claims space from another dog. The dog doing the claiming will come in with her head up and her ears and tail raised, and then she will stand above the other dog. It’s a silent message that very clearly says, “Move.”
When humans communicate with dogs, we tend to use a lot of words and sound, but this isn’t even necessary and, in a lot of cases, silence is the better approach. You can’t calm down an over-excited dog by shouting at it, because that just adds to the excitement — but you can correct and redirect an over-excited dog with something as simple as a touch.
I’m not saying that dogs won’t respond to sound or words. They will if it’s the only way we communicate with them. But if we learn how to communicate the way that they do, then we will have a better understanding and stronger connection with our dogs.
They say that silence is golden. It’s also powerful. Go ahead and try having a silent conversation with your dog. See whether you can get him to come to you and sit without saying a word. It may be difficult at first, since we are very language-oriented. But practice it regularly, and pay attention to what your dog is telling you without words.
The best way to get in touch with Nature and truly understand our dogs is to listen to the silence.
Stay calm, and keep quiet!
How many hand signals does your dog understand?