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Lessons From Langston: First Impressions

index_13l(Todd Langston)

“If I walk into your house, I communicate to your dog and what I’m going to communicate to them is that I expect respect.”

For those of you just tuning in, I had the opportunity to interview dog behaviorist Todd Langston last month. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting his advice in a feature called Lessons from Langston. His first lesson was about the necessity of mastering the walk. Click here for more.

In this post, Langston’s reveals what the “whisperer” in The Dog Whisperer means, plus how to make a positive first impression on a canine. How many times have you walked into a friend’s house and immediately dropped to your knees as soon as you saw they had a dog? According to Langston, that’s exactly how to make the wrong impression.

Where does the term whisperer come from in terms of Cesar Millan’s National Geographic show The Dog Whisperer?

That show has this very mystical appeal because [Cesar’s] going in and doing something that seems magical. Because what happens is when you learn how to work with dogs, you learn what they need, you learn how to communicate with them, you learn how to speak dog. So whispering means communication without words. If I walk into your house, I communicate to your dog and what I’m going to communicate to them is that I expect respect. And once we have that understanding, I’ll give them guidance. That becomes what the whole quote, unquote whispering is. It looks as though the dog is doing things for you in this magical way but in reality you are having an actual conversation through your actions and energy and being able to read and return what the dog gives you. Then the dog is like, “Holy shit, you know what I’m saying. What else can we do? Dude, let’s go do it.“ Humans struggle recognizing that they don’t do it the right way.

Can you be more specific about how to approach dogs?

I walk in head up, shoulders back. I have a notebook in my hand, like my schedule book. When a dog comes up to me, I hold that in front of me and ask for space. If the dog approaches and is barking, I just stand there because he’s telling me he doesn’t want me to come in yet. He needs to pause and kind of back away a little bit and that’s like giving me permission to come into his house. And that’s important because if you come in at the wrong time you can get challenged. And you don’t want that. I have a notebook and if the dog is too pushy, I touch him with the notebook. If I meet a new dog and they’re respectful, I’ll let them smell me for as long as they want because I probably smell [to them] like Facebook. I have a lot of smells on my shoes. And when they’re done, I’ll sit down and ignore the dog. Most dogs trigger a really emotional response in people. It triggers people to give right away. That puts the dog in control. Humans turn into these blubbering fools with dogs, and the dogs are like, “whatever.” It’s all about control.

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