How Teaching English Online Has Made Me A Better Dog Mom

Photo Taken by Author, Madison Epting

The seemingly obvious disconnect between dog owners and their furry companions is the inability to communicate as we would with a human being. If we could, it would certainly make things like trips to the vet, the timing of bathroom breaks, and misbehavior a bit easier to navigate.

So out of curiosity one day, I researched ‘how to communicate with your dog’ and expected to find a few ‘figure outable’ tips, but what really surprised me was the emphasis one particular article placed on where the disconnect actually begins.

As I have shared in earlier posts, I began teaching English to students in China roughly 4 months ago and have since made it a full time job. I know absolutely zero Mandarin so both myself and my students rely solely on our ability to communicate in a different way that makes it possible to create a successful learning experience.

With that being said, a huge part of my teaching strategy requires the incorporation of some sort of ‘Total Physical Response’ (TPR) when introducing new vocabulary. Why? Because a word has very little meaning unless we can simultaneously put an action or descriptive picture to it. Why does this technique work? Because for the most part, humans go through similar life experiences from day one. We know a smile means a person is happy, a scowl means they are mad, a wave can replace a verbal greeting — we ride in cars, we take planes, we get ready for the day, etc. So with that, we are ultimately able to provide the same body language, only with the vocabulary word of the new language.

Because our pet’s life experiences consist primarily of the things we expose them to and nothing more, this method of translation wouldn’t be effective in the slightest. The Rover article goes on to explain this as the ultimate reason why we cannot have real two-sided conversations with our pets. Instead, we must rely on the things they can understand — things like our tone of voice, the shaking of a leash, and keywords like ‘treat’ or ‘outside.’ I took this to heart and began to implement it into my daily life, but it wasn’t until I began teaching English online full time that I truly began to appreciate the patience and mindfulness of any level of a language barrier.

After I read this article and began teaching shortly after, it introduced a new way of thinking the desire to interact with my pup a bit different going forward. When voices are raised, it is important she knows it is not at her. When she does something bad, it is imperative that I let her know it is not okay right then. If I go to take her outside, picking up her leash oftentimes does the trick. By understanding that the majority of our world is foreign to our pets for the entirety of their lives, we begin to approach our treatment towards them a bit more mindfully. You are their whole world and their entire life is likely spent within the confinement of those four walls so communicate thoughtfully, patiently, and never forget lack of condition that our pet’s love for us comes with.

Writer. Poet. Philomath. Dog Mom. Traveler. Creator. Wanderer. Teacher. Empath. Author of “Unapologetically Human” - available on Amazon

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