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Humane Rescue Alliance

iSpeakDog: Bridging the Communications Gap Between People and Their Dogs

To help improve the relationship people have with their dogs, the Humane Rescue Alliance has teamed up with The Academy for Dog Trainers, The Bark Magazine, and The Pet Professional Guild  to launch iSpeakDog, a global campaign and website designed to help people better understand dog body language and behavior. The Humane Rescue Alliance is proud to participate as a local partner to provide resources and share knowledge with dog guardians in the Washington, DC region.

iSpeakDog, which kicks off an introductory campaign this week, comes at a time when canine behavior is being studied more than ever — revealing that people often misinterpret what their dogs are doing and saying. Sadly, millions of dogs are punished and even relinquished to shelters each year because of ‘behavior problems,’ which are often simply dogs being dogs.

“When people understand and appreciate dogs for the species that they are, that’s when the fun really starts,” says Jean Donaldson, founder of The Academy for Dog Trainers and author of Culture Clash. “Dogs chew and dig and bark and jump because these things are enjoyable to them, not because of some power struggle. With iSpeakDog, our goal is to empower people to separate out all the bad information that floods the Internet and media, and help them learn the truth about their pups so that they can respond more effectively and compassionately.”

To test if there really is a knowledge gap between what people think their dogs are doing and what is really happening, Alexandra Horowitz, renowned ethologist and bestselling author of Inside a Dog, conducted a study in 2009. She tested whether the infamous “guilty look” that many people claim to see in their dogs after they pee on the rug or tear up the couch is, in fact, a look of guilt. Her research found that it was not. Instead, the look represented dogs who were afraid of being punished.

Along those same lines, there are numerous videos online and on TV of dogs ‘being funny,’ but more often than not, the dogs in the videos are actually scared.

“We are proud to partner with iSpeakDog and provide dog adopters with great tools to help them understand the body language and behavior of their canine friends,” said Alexandra Dilley, Director of Behavior and Training for HRA. “We encourage all dog guardians in our community to use these invaluable resources.”

The website, iSpeakDog.org, will help teach people how to figure out for themselves what their dogs are doing and why. The site will break down the common behaviors shown by dogs that tend to frustrate their guardians (i.e. jumping up on people, chewing shoes and pulling on leash) and explain the different emotional states that can drive such behavior (i.e. growling and snapping is often a sign that the dog is scared).

The iSpeakDog campaign will include dog behavior and body language educational opportunities across the globe — including a free webinar on “How to Speak Dog,” on Tuesday, March 28 at 6 p.m. E.T. (iSpeakDog.org) — as well as social media events including Ask the Expert on Facebook.