- Get to know their body language:
Understanding your learner's natural cues can help you know what they like and what makes them uncomfortable.
- Acknowledge greeting rituals:
Greeting rituals are important in most animal species. Follow your learner's lead on how they like to engage in greetings and show that you're happy to see them.
- Avoid looming over them:
If your learner quickly backs away or shows signs of discomfort, it's a sign that you're making them uncomfortable.
- Respect their comfort with physical contact:
Many animals are touched more often than they like. Prolonged physical contact may not be comfortable for some species. Respect your learner's boundaries.
- Watch for body language:
To know what your learner is feeling, look at their head, body, and tail. Pay special attention to their eyes, ears, and mouth.
- Respond to their communication:
The more you respond to your learner's attempts to communicate, the more they will try to communicate with you. We all know how frustrating it is to have someone not understand or hear you!
- Establish healthy boundaries:
- You can still set boundaries while responding to their attempts to communicate. Do your best to respond to their attempts to communicate when you can.
Communication is a two-way street. Our learners are constantly watching and learning how to understand us. We need to put effort into learning from and understanding them better too.
Which of these communicative behaviors have you noticed before in your learner?
- Barking / meowing / growling / other vocalizations
- Pawing or nudging at something (a door, a bowl, a toy, etc.)
- Looking at you and then looking at something (a door, a bowl, a toy, etc.)
- Tilting their head or swiveling their ears in response to you
- Turning away / flicking their tail / refusing to make eye contact
DOG BODY LANGUAGE
CAT BODY LANGUAGE
“Keep going!” behaviors
Playful, alert, greeting, and friendly body language in response to specific words you use is a good sign they’re paying attention and want to interact. These might be words that are most interesting to them and are great words to start teaching. If they seem ready to explore, then you’re in the clear.
If your learner looks nervous, stressed, uneasy, or scared, it’s time to take a break. This means something/someone in their environment is making them uncomfortable. Try introducing words, buttons, or their soundboard another time.
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