Obedience enthusiasts are aware of the crucial role communication plays in the relationship between dog and handler. We emphasize the significance of body language, tone of voice and our general response to the dog. Yet the important area of psychic communication remains a mysterious dimension of training and instructing that begs to be explored. It is imperative that handlers and instructors become familiar with this influential phenomenon.
Of course, some may say that psychic communication belongs inside show tents and fortune telling booths, and has no place in the world of “sit, stay, and come.” It is difficult for them to think that anything but verbal commands and body gestures are responsible for the transference of information between dog and handler.
Nevertheless, this subject warrants closer inspection as properly developed psychic communication can be an invaluable asset in training. The definition of psychic communication is communication that comes from the mind, without physical or verbal components. In the realm of obedience, psychic communication merely means information is being transferred without benefit of hand or verbal commands. Psychic communication, while having no commonalities with witchcraft, Satanism or idolatry, is similar to ESP.
Many of us have read of the amazing trailing feats of animals who have found their owners after they have moved thousands of miles away, often to areas the animals have never been. Tales of owners suddenly thinking of their pets and rushing home to find them in life threatening situations have been documented, as have accounts of animals showing great distress when their masters are in danger miles, or even continents, away. These communications occurred through psychic means, using the capacities of the mind, as no verbal communications were possible.
As obedience enthusiasts, we can take advantage of our dogs’ psychic potential by developing our own. For example, as we teach the sit, by thinking “sit” as we say the word and physically sit the dog, we are reinforcing vocal and body cues with our thoughts. As we call the dog and think the word “come”, again all communications, body voice and thought, agree and therefore strengthen one another.
Moreover, when communications are not in agreement we experience difficulties. If the handler gives the verbal and hand signal for down while thinking, “My dog has such a problem on this exercise s/he’ll never do it”, you can be sure the dog won’t. The dog is receiving signals that clash, and the strongest may be the negative thoughts preventing success.
I illustrate this point in my classes by nodding my head as I say, “No, I don’t think I’d like to go with you”, or shaking my head in a negative fashion as I say, “Yes, I’d like to go with you.” The non-verbal cues do not agree with each other, and this clash causes confusion and misunderstanding. By saying one thing and thinking another, we confuse our dogs in the same manner.
In addition to thinking the command, it helps to visualize the command. For example, as we say and think the word “sit”, visualizing the dog sitting strengthens psychic communication. When sending the dog over the high jump, visualizing the dog returning and sitting straight in front will help insure a successful retrieve. If we give the command “take it” as we think, “Oh no, s/he failed this exercise at the last show”, your chances of failing it again have just improved. As an artist sees a completed canvas and the composer a completed symphony, we must visualize the completed exercise performed successfully.
Psychic communication can be a help or a hindrance in training, understanding and caring for our dogs. People and dogs do respond to psychic communication, and it is im- portant we carefully include these abilities in our training program. Instead of relying on mere voice and body commands, developing dog and handler teams’ psychic partnerships can result in stronger bonds of companionship and understanding, the highest goals of obedience training.
[Note: For additional reading on this subject, What the Animals Tell Me, by Beatrice Lyedecker, published by Harper & Row.]
©1980 S. Myles