Thursday, April 3, 2014

Common Ground (#atozchallenge)

"Dog training" is a misnomer. It makes one think that it's the dog that's going to be trained.

In fact, it's the human.

Good human. I knew you'd get it eventually.
The dog's going to learn all sorts of nifty tricks, but the human... The human's outlook on life will go through tectonic transformation.

What dog training achieves is communication. Effective, two-way communication.

Surprised? Your dog won't be. For him/her, you've been communicating all along (body language, remember?). Not very efficiently, but communicating nonetheless. If you listen closely, you might hear a sigh of relief (finally! this human is getting it!). But surprise? Amazement? No. Dogs don't underestimate us.

We, on the other hand... Well, it's understandable. We headed over to our neighborhood trainer for housebreaking chew-it-all issues and all of a sudden--ohmygod, the dog speaks! And listens! He understands us! And we can understand him!

See, what these "dog" training sessions do is help us establish a common ground. Because there is no possibility for effective communication without a common ground.

Double OK sign means "I want to stay down here
forever." (Yes, that's me.)
Have you ever visited a foreign country whose language you didn't speak? Or imagine that proverbial scenario of the (friendly) alien landing in your backyard. Sign language, you say? Unless the signs mean the same thing to both of you, you might be getting into worse trouble.

Example: for pilots, a thumbs-up sign means OK. For divers, the sign for OK is a circle with thumb and forefinger. Thumbs-up means, literally, UP--which creates misunderstandings, some funny, some life-threatening, between a pilot and his dive instructor.

Without going to foreign, or alien, or underwater, or 30-mile-high extremes, finding common ground for communication--even though it seems like, well, common sense--is something we too often fail to do. Every individual in our small, daily world has a unique language, a unique background that shapes the way they express themselves.

Failure to accept this is what leads to prejudice.

Without a trainer to interpret for others--and for us--it's up to each one of us to make the effort. Listen. Don't jump to conclusions. Don't assume everyone uses words in the same way we do, or with the same intentions.

Let's make sure we find, at least try to find, that common ground. Before getting angry or hurt at what someone says.


  1. Great post! Amazing how, when you pay attention, body language often does NOT match what is coming out of someone's mouth. :-)

  2. Great lesson :) Communication is a two-way street - the receiver and the sender - which all too often put their own spin on the messages. Luckily dogs are much more straightforward :)
    The Five Dog Blog

  3. I agree 100%! My dog "training" period is really about learning the dog's personality and finding out how it melds with my own. Every dog is different. You can achieve a common outcome with training--like teaching them to potty outside--but how you get to that point, and why that particular dog wants to do it always seems to be unique. :)

  4. Loving your posts Guilie! :) Communication is so important in all aspects of life, be it human to human or human to animal.
    The Doglady's Den

  5. Great post - very interesting to read..even for a cat-lover like myself:-) He he :-) Happy to connect with your through atoz:-)

  6. Stopping by from the aotz challenge.

    We write about pet food, fitness, and health at and our partner site . Both sites are in the challenge.

    I hadn't know your blog and am glad that I found it. Very 'smart' post today for sure!

  7. I never forget the first time I travelled and was shocked that dogs could understand foreign languages!!! *not one of my more intelligent moments* :) Reflex Reactions

  8. Hi from a fellow dog lover. I'm checking in from the A-Z Challenge.

  9. Another interesting dog-post!
    "Let's make sure we find, at least try to find, that common ground. Before getting angry or hurt at what someone says." In a totally different way, I've given the same message in my post "Benefit of doubt" at

  10. I have had the same experience training birds of prey; something I haven't had the pleasure of doing for quite a while. Did I train him to come back for food, or did he train me that I needed to offer food if I wanted him back? Don't take him out in rain, he won't fly. Don't wear brightly coloured clothes, he won't come to you. He doesn't like hats. He will disappear off if there's a red tractor in the next field (never did get to the bottom of that one). Who exactly was training whom?


No love like Dog Love--or Blog Friend Love!