As we are aware, effective communication is an essential ingredient in any relationship.  At the same time, whether it be friend to friend, parent to child, employer to employee or human to animal, 93% of the transference is non verbal and subconscious  according to social scientists.  We think that what we SAY is important when, in fact, that is the least significant element in the dialogue.

The other day, during a visit to the barnyard, I happened to observe someone in the act of greeting one of the donkeys.  Clearly, the person  meant it to be a positive, affectionate interaction because her words conveyed delight.  At the same time she strode over to the animal with arms outstretched and moved them around the donkey’s nose and eyes as she talked.  Of course, the donkey reared back and, in the process, the person exclaimed that the animal was being standoffish.

But that was not really the case.  In the moment, I put myself in the donkey’s place and imagined  a person approaching me, making unintelligible sounds and with fast-moving hands and arms coming towards, and then rubbing all over my face.  It would be an unpleasant experience, to say the least.

I guess that people do things like that to the other animals because our instinctive urge is to control and there is nothing that says that more strongly than the attempt to grab at the head.  This urge, this habit is demonstrated in most human/animal interactions, be it with dogs, cats, equines, cattle but if we were to stop and think about it we could see that the EFFECT of the action is contrary to the verbal intent. 

There are so  many dimensions in human/animal communication and we have only in recent years come to appreciate them.  Undoing a habit can be tiresome but the benefits in the long run – better communication – make the effort worthwhile.

Sandra Pady, Founder

2 thoughts on “IN YOUR FACE”

  1. Interesting read Sandra…I remember I was given a wonderful Brochure by a Humane Society (Dogs, cats etc.,) years ago which demonstrated in colour and words why children get bitten. They show a child approaching the startled dog at a rapid speed, making noises, arms out, smiling, and staring straight in the dog’s eyes…and explained to a dog this is an aggressive posture and your child may very well get bitten through this misunderstanding. Hope you see this correlation. Your Sanctuary is blissful to visit, the donkeys wonderful creatures and the public needs you and them to further education, An animal is really little different from a person, needs love, understanding and RESPECT. Thank you for posting.

  2. A non-verbal approach to any human would be treated with the same aggressive response and even when the approach is made with a verbal response in a language that was not the mother tongue of the recipient what should you expect as their response to you. All animals require an earned trust whether they have been beaten or mistreated or are meeting you for the first time. If you are afraid of the animal or afraid to be bitten then you should not put yourself in a position of making first contact. You will be rewarded 99 times out of 100 if you simply out stretch the back of your hand slowly to whatever you want to say hello to, holding it there calmly and stress free to allow the friend you want make the chance to sense you are none threatening and instead caring and full of love. Remember, you may have washed you hands and your clothes, but if you have pets of your own it will be a very good chance their smell will be on the hand your extending to the new friend you want to make. Give the new friend a chance, it does not take long and after a gentle caress or scratch of the chin many wonders will await you. If however you have in front of you the 1 in 100 animals that have trust issues or do not like the smell of your hand or clothes, you have the back of your hand to the animal and it is a lot easier to recall your hand and fingers back towards your body and away from teeth. I you extend your hand palm up you will tend to push it forward toward what is trying to keep you away and that can be a bad thing. Fire fighters learn that when you are feeling for heat on a door you use the back of your hand so that it retracts, same principal with animals. Give them the option to say it’s O.K. I trust you at this moment.
    It is a beautiful thing. Give them the opportunity to say I warned you, as well.
    Wayne, retired fire fighter and animal person.

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