While many will pipe up and say “That’s LOVE!” let me add it is also ‘Dog Training”!! J Fresh from another great time working with Svetlana Tumanova, I can truly say dog training skills, concepts and communication cut across human language barriers. And it’s not just Russian, evidently my pups know German, Italian and Finnish too, having had the good fortune to work with excellent handlers from several countries over the years. Even Canada, eh! 😉
So what is this universality?? How can it be that despite not sharing a common spoken language my pups and I can understand and benefit from the instruction of these great, non-english speaking trainers?? My best guess? I find handler “motion” and “orientation” are the foundation, the root of a ‘language’ we all share with our pups. Think about it, pups don’t speak English, either! Certain physical cues mean ‘go’ regardless of language or sport. Certain physical cues mean ‘whoa’ also regardless of same. When we are training it is easy to come back to these things, this universal language, that not only people share, but we share with our pups as well.
What are these things that mean the same everywhere to everyone? Specifically, the foowing appear to me to be universal. Cues a person can do that mean “Go fast, take extended strides” are: facing/orientation forward, moving at a steady pace. Cues a person can do that mean “Decrease speed, take collected strides” are: facing more towards the pup/orienting back, changing pace. These cues of motion/orientation need no translation or training!!! So when I am working with someone that does not speak English (human or canine) I know I can always come back to these things that we all understand. Then we can build from there to more intricate combinations of concepts.
Skills that contradict motion and orientation are difficult to train, important yes, but definitely not the majority of our shared language. They require a great deal of training precisely because they require ‘translation’. I use them, but I use them with great care and we must work HARD to really understand them clearly. At present I have a grand total of TWO cues that can contradict motion. And that’s two more than I had for years!!
If you are thinking about taking a seminar with someone from another country, I would suggest the following. Instead of worrying about their English, my advice is watch them run their dogs. If you like what you see, go for it! You can ‘speak the language’. Likewise, when you are training your non-english speaking DOG, be mindful of your movement and orientation, then enjoy the nearly magical comprehension!! Correct movement and orientation is the picture that’s worth a thousand words!