Some people are dog people - some are not! I think dogs can sense this - they like people who like them back. Dogs can certainly sense fear, so why not kindness? Dogs also respect honesty and clarity of communication, and respond well to people who understand this.
This weekend, we moved our ewe lambs from a property in Loomis because our guard dog, Boise, was intimidating to the landowners and their employee. Boise is a large dog who can seem quite ferocious. His anxiety level seems to increase greatly when people are afraid of him. On Sunday evening, he got out of his paddock. While he was apparently charging the person who called me, when I arrived he only wanted to be back with his sheep. I've observed him acting aggressively with people who yell at him out of fear, and I've also observed him relax when a person ignores him or tells him to "knock it off" forcefully and without fear. On Monday, our friend Roger Ingram (a definite dog person) approached him (after not having seen him for 3-4 months), and Boise greeted him enthusiastically.
Last night, after a long day moving sheep, Roger, Courtney and I worked our dogs here at home. Courtney's dog, Lucy, was ignoring Courtney's corrections and commands until we improved the timing our corrections. I think we were able to help her see that we weren't punishing her - we were simply trying to help her understand what we were asking. Similarly, Roger's dog, Bella, responded very well to timely corrections and sweet-voiced commands.
Most of the problems that I encounter with my working dogs (or with other animals) seem to be related to my inability to communicate effectively and to my inability to read subtle differences in the animal's behavior. I suspect that human relationships present similar challenges!
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