As a teacher (of humans) I'm always thinking about how to better teach students who are language learners, new to the English language. As a teacher of dogs I also think about how to better teach language (voice and sign) to dogs. Our humans have tremendous access to language training, but our dogs have little. They must listen to our speech, our body language, much not directed at them, and learn. For the most part other than obedience and related classes they are on their own.
I aim to change that, to have people view dogs as potential (productive) language learners. We already know that Koko has learned to sign. (www.koko.org) Dogs should be given that chance as well. I do this by teaching dogs to sign, using AnimalSign, K9Sign, etc. We leave our dogs illiterate! Though they do have natural gestures, vocalizations (much recently discovered), they have the potential for more, if we taught them (as we teach our human kids).
How can you get started?
1. talk to your dog, as you would your child, tell them 'that's a TREE', 'that is a DOOR'
2. keep a journal of the gestures they make, the body moves (understood or not).
3. listen to the sounds, the nuances of those sounds, the facial expressions
4. use their gestures to talk to them, bark, move your limbs.
5. show them pictures, books, as you would a baby.
6. for more info you can go to my seminars, workshops or read my upcoming book...as well.check www.animalsign.org events page for Oct/Nov events.
On pictures, Bonnie Bergin from ADI has written a book about Teaching dogs to read!