Do you sometimes feel like your Frenchie is the most stubborn creature on the planet? You tell them one thing which they either ignore or do the exact opposite of what you expect from them. If that sounds way too familiar, we think we know the reason why. Dogs and humans communicate in completely different ways, which may sound obvious at first, but is actually more complex than you thought. Don’t worry, in our exclusive Frenchie language course we’ll teach you everything you need to know about communicating with your puppy!
How is human and dog communication different?
It probably won’t come as a surprise that for us humans the primary tool for communication is speech. In the animal kingdom however, most animals use nonverbal communicational tools like body language. These differences often lead to misunderstandings between us and our four-legged friends. All the times you thought that your Frenchie is either stubborn or not the sharpest tool in the shed, they probably just didn’t quite understand what you were trying to say.
There’s a very good reason though why dogs became man’s best friends: they are great at adapting! They are able to learn words they hear often (like command words) and link meanings to them. Still, you’ll be surprised what a tiny role words actually play in your communication with your Frenchie: they understand way more from nonverbal signs.
If you want to live with your Frenchie in perfect harmony, it’s absolutely essential that you learn the basics of clear communication with them. In the next two sections, we’ll cover everything you need to know about verbal and nonverbal communication with your puppy.
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Verbal communication with a Frenchie
Humans can convey different meanings simply by changing the tone, volume and intonation of their voice. When talking to your Frenchie, there are usually three main goals that you probably want to achieve (not counting those cases when you’re just lonely and don’t have anyone else to talk to). These are commands, praising and punishing, and all of them require you to use a different kind of voice.
Commands: a firm, confident, neutral tone of voice, normal volume
Praising: a friendly, enthusiastic, sweet, thin tone of voice, normal or high volume
Punishing: a forceful, strict, deep tone of voice, high volume
The importance of using ‘the right voice’
It’s very important that you always use your right voice when commanding, praising or punishing your Frenchie, otherwise they won’t understand what you’re expecting from them. Apart from command words (and “treat!”), you can say to your puppy basically anything you want, they won’t understand its meaning. What they will understand is the way you say those words: they will know and feel when you’re happy or angry with them when they did something good or bad.
That’s why it’s absolutely essential to make a clear distinction among these three ways of communication: if there’s just a slight difference, your puppy will most likely not sense it! For example, many parents make the mistake of not showing their anger enough when punishing or telling their puppy off. Your Frenchie will not know they did something bad if you talk to them in your normal voice. Trying to explain your puppy how bad they were and how angry you are at them in a sweet tone won’t get you anywhere either. Next time you see two dogs fighting take some notes as that’s what you need to be like too!
One thing you should never do
There’s one thing that you should avoid at all cost: never call your Frenchie in an angry manner! Not even when you’re truly mad at them. Why? Because a dog will never go to you if they sense you are angry. No matter how difficult it is, you should call them in a nice and pleasant tone and praise them if they go to you, because if you tell them off and express your anger, they will be reluctant to listen to your calls later on. Our advice is that you remember that one (or more) time your baby made you really mad, and recall it next time they do something really bad. Then you’ll be allowed to be twice as angry!
We’ll share more advice on how to command, praise and punish your Frenchie in another section. First, let’s learn the basics of nonverbal communication with dogs!
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Nonverbal communication with a Frenchie
Forms of nonverbal communication
Similarly to humans, dogs have various forms of nonverbal communication which stem from their basic animal instincts. These include the following:
- Facial expression
- Eye contact
It’s important to mention that these forms of communication often mean something completely different to dogs and to us! Let’s take movement for example:
- Movement towards each other: attack, dominance, sorting out the positions within the hierarchy of the pack
- Movement away from each other: retreat, reconciliation, peace
- No movement: can mean both of the previous ones, more of a neutral, risk-free intention
How does it work in practice?
Let’s put the theory into practice now. Imagine that you’re at the dog park with your Frenchie, and it’s finally time to go home. What do you do? We’ll give you two possible answers to help:
A. You start moving towards your puppy with spread arms to put the leash on them
B. You call them by their name and start moving away from them in the opposite direction
If your answer is B, you are correct, congratulations! Let’s see why: if you move towards your Frenchie, they’ll think that you either want to play and run after them or that you’re angry. It’s probably no surprise that your puppy won’t go to you if you do that. Instead, you should call them in a pleasant manner while moving away, you can even run, they will most certainly go after you!
For us, moving towards another person with spread arms means we want to hug them, but dogs interpret increased body size as a threat. That’s why your Frenchie will get scared if you approach them that way, so you should always be aware of your posture, especially with timid dogs.
Commands, praising and punishing
Let’s see how you should use the different forms of nonverbal communication (movement, posture, facial expression, eye contact, touch) when commanding, praising or punishing your puppy!
Commands: standing in one place or moving away from your puppy; firm, normal posture; neutral facial expression; can make eye contact but not necessarily; no stroking
Praising: standing in one place or moving away from your puppy; curled-up posture; kind, smiling facial expression; no eye contact; stroking allowed
Punishing: standing in one place or moving towards your puppy; increased body size (spread arms); angry facial expression; direct eye contact; spank on the nose or the bottom if needed
It’s very important that your body language clearly communicates your intention in a way that your puppy understands! So, make sure that these three differ in a great deal so that your Frenchie can clearly distinguish among them.
How to discipline your Frenchie: the golden rule
When your Frenchie does something wrong, you should always use a neutral NO command word first. If they react well, you can praise them, if not, you’ll need to punish. You should always do one of the last two!
We hope that by the end of our Frenchie language course, you learnt everything about clear communication with your Frenchie. Like we said, if you want to live with your puppy in perfect harmony, it’s essential that they understand what you expect from them, when they do something good or bad. Dogs need someone to look up to, a pack leader who tells them what to do. Practicing everything we taught you on a daily basis is absolutely necessary to become your Frenchie’s pack leader.
Keep in mind that Frenchies are very smart, if you communicate with them properly, they will learn quickly. But for that, you’ll need to be firm, consistent and have clear expectations so that your puppy can have a sense of achievement when they do something well. So, never miss a chance to praise your fur baby!
If you’d like to learn more about Frenchies, join our Facebook group called TomKings Frenchie Family to read our Frenchie parents’ experiences.
The article is based on the expert knowledge of the TomKings Puppies team who have been breeding French Bulldogs for 10 years on their farm. All the pictures in the post belong to them and their customers, and show puppies from their breed. Check their available French Bulldog puppies, or if you have any questions or comments let us know below the article.