by Jo Maldonado for The New Barker Dog Magazine.
How was it that 100 hundred shelter dogs at Seminole County Animal Shelter stopped barking, and laid down calmly as I slowly walked down the aisle between the kennels? My body language was non-threatening and neutral. My energy, using my training in QiGong and Reiki, was directed toward a calm and favorable outcome to them, and lastly, my mental thoughts were those of calmness. The dogs read all this. Watch as Jo Maldonado, using body language and thoughts, calms stressed shelter dogs in a few minutes at Seminole County Animal Shelter.
Time and Time Again
My theory of using body language, energy control and mental imagery was again proven recently, with a group of animal communicators and dog trainers at the Pet Rescue by Judy Shelter. I worked with a group of people and instructed them on how to communicate with the dogs using the aforementioned techniques. The results were the same: outstanding. Here is the video of the group of animal communicators and dog trainers.
Body language is the most primitive and significant form of human communication. It came into existence even before our ancestors developed speech and language. The study of body language is called kinesics and has been studied since the early Greeks.
Research studies suggest that your body is the reflection of your mind, and the way you control your body will have an impact on your mental processes. It is a mutual process. Your body posture adapts to your thoughts, so if for example, you are depressed your shoulders may slump, your head may drop, you may shift weight onto one leg vs. standing equal weight on both legs If you’re nervous, your gestures may be more jerky, not smooth and controlled; you may pace.
My studies with body language originated with studying Professor Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist and Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, known world-wide for her Power Pose study. Her studies showed that we send messages of leadership to people through “Power Poses.”
Each posture or pose, gives off a certain and very different energy signal. Each body position carries with it an emotion which is triggered by our thoughts and the memories our cells have stored within our body. There are power poses and submissive poses, each respectively affecting the people and animals around us in a different manner.
Power Poses and Animals
I went one step further after following Prof. Cuddy’s poses with humans, and applied it to animals, specifically horses and dogs. Dogs are predators, and responded in a subservient manner, recognizing the human as pack leader; horses the prey, responded in a threatened manner, in flight mode.
My conclusion supports what we should already realize: use caution when approaching unfamiliar dogs. Communicate clearly what it is you want the dog to know or do. Some dogs are leaders, and others are pack followers. If we are to apply strong forceful body language upon a follower type dog, it may create adverse reactions in a now fearful dog. On the other hand, if we apply a power pose to a dog who clearly wants to be in charge, we would get a response more in our favor, and you win the pack leader role.
Body Language & Energy
Animals measure their trust in you, their communication with you, and their understanding of you by the energy that you send when you are in their presence. It’s not complicated. The fascinating thing is, that we ALL send messages to other species, all the time. All beings share their energy with others. The thoughts that you have, create a vibration, a specific frequency which is then perceived by others around you.
This is also why you are able to detect if someone is being genuine and authentic in the words they speak, you instinctually pick up on the thoughts and vibrations which the other person is giving off. When a person’s words and their thoughts do not match, you can perceive this through their body language. This intricate process of translation is all done subconsciously.
Dogs’ proficiency in reading body language should come as no surprise since, as pack members, dogs have to communicate with each other without the benefit of a verbal language. Instead they communicate through conscious and subliminal signing or gesturing, and watch for the actions and reactions of the other individual.
Your body posture: head carriage position, shoulders, hip stance, position of arms, behind you vs. in front of you, send the same messages to animals as they do to people, just more intensified. Each posture or pose gives off a certain and very different energy signal. Each body position carries with it an emotion which is triggered by our thoughts and the memories our cells have stored within our body.
So, how did we get all those dogs to stop barking, and relax?
1) Posture: Shoulders Back
Did you know that more testosterone is emitted when your shoulders are back, vs. when they are in a slumped-over position? Dogs’ senses are keen. When you emit more testosterone in dog language you are saying that you are in charge; in a dog pack, the dog with the highest level of testosterone is in charge; shoulders slumped to the front is submissive, signaling that you don’t want to be in charge.
Higher testosterone is associated with confidence, power, and higher risk tolerance. This combination is linked with effective leadership. Contracted body language (closed) is linked to feelings of lower status and worth, and is exemplified by hunched shoulders, head lowered, crossed arms and legs, and not smiling, says social psychologist Amy Cuddy.
2) Knees Locked vs. Knees Relaxed
Knees should be unlocked, or in a relaxed position if standing, legs equally apart at a stance, and grounded “like a tree” is most optimal. When you lock your knees, your muscles tighten. Tight muscles are typically a response to either severe cold temperatures, excitability, heightened emotions, or unbalanced energy, and can deliver an unfavorable response to dogs. They may also be viewed as threatening. Example: a fearful person tends to tense up and stare. Dogs may tend to misread a fearful person’s behavior as a “challenge” posture, like that of a dominant dog squaring up to an opponent. This immediately puts a dog on the defensive.
3) Legs Apart Stance: A neutral pose to be assumed with equal weight distributed on each leg as you stand, as opposed to shifting your weight to one or other leg which sends a message of uncertainty. When you are standing equally, you are more in control of your dog and are sending messages of strength and confidence to your animal.
4) Head Position: Very significant in body language. A person’s head, due to a very flexible neck structure, can turn, thrust forward, withdraw, tilt sideways, forwards and backwards. All of these movements have meanings, which given some thought about other signals can be understood.
The best position to work with animals is a high head position which signifies attentive listening, usually with an open or undecided mind, or lack of bias.
5) Gait: All participants were instructed to stand sideways, in front of one or two dog kennels. No gait was incorporated.
6) Facial Expressions: Neutral. No eye contact. Each participant stool parallel, sideways, not facing the dogs. Relaxed facial muscle.
7) Tone: No words were used.
8) Thoughts: All were instructed to think of the dogs in a neutral, relaxed position. Begin with slow relaxed breathing, deep sigh, then seeing the dogs in your mind’s eye sitting, then laying down. The goal was to think relaxing thoughts about the dog.
Our Emotions Are Showing
Did someone ever tell you that you “wear your emotions on your sleeve?” Take that a step further. Animals are keen observers of our intentions and emotions, and can read us with an objective eye – even those movements and positions that you may not be aware of.
Practice your body language as though the whole world were watching. Animals (and your dogs) will let you know if you have it right.
About the author: Jo Maldonado is an animal communicator, and has been an advisor and contributor to The New Barker since 2010. She is the founder and owner of Gryphons’ Claw The School of Practical Magic, and is department head of the Animal Communication Division. Jo is available as a lecturer, instructor and consultant for private clients and animal shelters. She may be reached via email at Jo@AnimalReader.com