Peter Goldenthal, Ph.D., ABPP: Child, Adult, & Family Psychology

Selected Works by Dr. Goldenthal

Nonfiction
A parenting book providing answers to questions about sibling conflicts
Professional Book
This book presents the theory, concepts, and techniques of Contextual Therapy, a unique and powerful thereapeutic approach especially suited to helping children and adolescents.

Quick Links

Find Authors

Therapy and the Human-Dog Bond

How to Whisper and Listen to Your Dog Part 1

December 21, 2015

Tags: Therapy, human-dog bond, dog whisperer

As I was leaving my monthly dog trainers’ meeting, I had the sudden realization that training dogs to behave better is far too limited a goal. Your dog can do better than that. You and your dog can do better than that. You may be wondering, what does he mean? What I mean is this: you and your dog can have a wonderful, enriching, close bond, the kind of bond that provides healing moments for both of you.

I’m absolutely serious about this. Of all the non-human species, dogs are the most ready to develop extraordinarily deep connections with a human. Not every human is prepared for this, but for those who are both the journey and the goal can be quite wonderful.

Being your dog’s personal whisperer means being his or her friend, guardian, caretaker, confidant, guide, teacher, coach, and therapist. I’ve intentionally left out the word “trainer” because it immediately makes people think that they have to make sure their dog obeys, knows who is the boss, etc. This kind of mindset is not one that leads to the kind of relationship that you are seeking.

Instead of learning how to be your dog’s “boss,” as promoted by all too many books and dog trainers, you can learn to be your dog’s trusted guide. As you become your dog’s trusted guide, your dog will become your trusted friend and confidant.

All this will happen as you become a better whisperer. And to be a better whisperer, you must first become a better dog listener. Dogs, just like people, are much more inclined to accept guidance and advice from a best friend that from a stranger. The way to become your dog’s best friend is to observe, notice, and listen carefully.

The way to develop an intimate relationship with your dog is to know him or her as well as possible: his or her needs, likes, dislikes, favorite things, and fears–everything you can possibly learn.

As I write this, Sasha is lying on a chair barely big enough to hold her with her head dangling over the edge of the chair. It looks uncomfortable, but she is happy because this position puts her head in the small patch of sun coming through the skylight. Sasha is like a cat: she loves to lie in the sun, and she loves to be warm. But not every dog has this cat-like love of warm sunny spots. Frankie, my friend’s dog, is never cold. She (yes Frankie is a lady) has fur as thick as any arctic sled dog and is happiest lying on frozen ground, or better yet, in a snowbank.

Begin by studying and observing your dog as if you were Sherlock Holmes. Here are some thing to notice:

What is your dog’s preferred distance from you? At your feet? Wishing eyesight? On your lap?

•What make your dog happy? What makes her nervous?

•When you call him, does he come to you right away or think about it for a bit?