Dogs were first domesticated 16,000-27,000 years ago to help protect people from outside dangers and carry out menial tasks like herding. Somewhere along the way these intelligent animals became closely tied to their human counterparts. They are amazingly adept at reading human emotions, and their ability to love us is without limit.
It is these characteristics that are now being used to ease children during court testimony, help veterans with PTSD and assist people with autism. Countless studies from organizations like the CDC have found that owning and interacting with dogs has a strong, positive impact on our psychological, physical and social well-being. Interacting with dogs:
- Increases serotonin (feel-good hormone) production.
- Reduces blood pressure and heart rate.
- Increases physical activity.
- Lessens the need for medication and medical appointments.
- Decreases depression after the loss of a loved one.
- Reduces stress levels.
- Improves our sense of security.
- Improves our mood and make us feel less lonely.
- Creates a sense of happiness and closeness within families.
- Increases self-esteem.
Our relationship with dogs can also help us build better relationships with other people. When it comes to communicating there’s a lot we can learn from our canine companions.
5 Ways Your Dog Can Help You Communicate Better
Without saying a single word dogs have the ability to tell how you’re feeling, comfort you and communicate their own thoughts. They also help their owners learn these same communication techniques so they can interact more effectively with other people.
1. They Encourage Conversations
Dogs are a real conversation starter – literally. In addition to getting you out in social settings like dog parks, a non-clinical study by Therapy Dogs International (TDI) found that patients in elder care facilities with canine therapy were more sociable, alert, positive and had increased verbalization. Another study showed that interaction increased at a veterans’ hospital when dogs were present. Interacting with your dog in the presence of others can relax you and make you seem more approachable, both of which help conversations happen more naturally.
2. They Help You Read Non-verbal Cues
In many situations 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. After numerous studies, researcher Albert Mehrabian concluded that 55 percent of communication is body language, 38 percent is tone of voice and only 7 percent is composed of the actual words being said. Dogs are masters at reading body language and responding to tone. Given that they don’t actually conceive words the way we do, they rely on body language and tone to understand what it is we want and what information is most important. Dogs can also communicate with us by using body language. People who own dogs get a lot of practice reading body language, especially if they pay attention to how their pups react to commands.
3. They Teach Patience
There are times when caring for a dog, particularly a puppy, can be frustrating. When you don’t speak the same language it requires a lot more patience for communication to occur. It takes time to understand the behavioral quirks. The Pets for Life program notes that oftentimes it’s human failings that lead to behavior problems in dogs because we’re not trying hard enough. Practicing patience is an almost daily task for dog owners, and it’s a virtue that helps improve communication in the workplace.
4. They’ll Make You More Empathetic
Dogs are beloved for their ability to love unconditionally, and it turns out they help us humans become more loving and empathetic too. Canines score off the charts in emotional intelligence (EQ). This is a measure of our ability to connect with others and empathize. Among other things, researchers have also found that EQ is an excellent measure of educational success. Fortunately, our EQ can grow, and a dog is a great resource for expanding it further. Studies by Kansas State University professor Robert H. Poresky found that children with dogs showed higher levels of empathy. Taking care of another creature tends to make us kinder and gentler to everyone else. Plus, empathy also improves as you get better at reading non-verbal cues.
5. They Help You Focus on the Other Person
It’s not always easy to figure out what point a person is trying to make or what they really want. A fair amount of the time it’s because we aren’t focusing on what the other person is saying. If you’ve ever forgotten someone’s name right after an introduction it’s probably because you were more focused on how you were being perceived than what they were saying. In training, dogs are taught to focus and pay attention to the actions and words of their owners. Focus is key for getting them to understand the commands that are being given. Next time you’re getting your pooch to do a few tricks watch how focused they are on what it is you are saying and doing. This kind of focus makes communication easier and more productive.
Given all the benefits of interacting with a dog, this might be the ONE Thing that helps you improve your communication skills. Already communicating with canines? Share your dog stories with us on Facebook!