Written by Niki Tudge 2010 Copyright

Key Points of Good Communication Skills

Dog Behavior consulting can take place in an emotionally charged environment where there are differing expectations, belief and value systems. Poor communication can further compound these issues and  Hetts proposes a crisis intervention model recommending four communication skills that can help consultants deal with challenges that arise from these scenarios.

Acknowledging is a skill that validates a client’s emotional experience without judgment benefiting the mutual relationship of both parties. Normalizing helps to put a client’s situation into context whereby they acknowledge they are not alone in experiencing these problems with their dog. The acknowledgement process can help eliminate further emotional stress.

Self –disclosing is the process of the consultant normalizing the client’s experience and reducing the gap between themselves and the client by acknowledging their own mistakes and sharing past experiences when they have a good understanding of the client’s problems and concerns.

Controlling the conversation is an important skill.  The consultant can tactfully keep the conversation on track without offending or belittling the client. This is an important skill at the front end of the consultation during the telephone intake procedure. Controlling a conversation ensures pertinent information can flow without the key focus being lost.


Key Points of Good Attending Skills

Good attending skills help create an atmosphere that develops trust. Listening actively, maintaining eye contact, clarifying understandings and exploring feelings using open ended questions allows for effective and efficient communication.

Good attending skills also focus on non verbal cues. Focusing all of your attention onto the person you are communicating with expresses a genuine interest in them.  Fidgeting, conflicted attention and poor listening skills indicate a lack of interest in the person and this can elicit counterproductive emotional responses.

The use of minimal encouragers helps the client to continue communicating what could be a difficult message and empathy can be expressed by asking open ended questions to encourage them to keep talking. Verbal tracking is a skill that helps keep a client on topic if they become sidetracked or digress to another subject and paraphrasing helps confirm and clarify information.

Mirroring is similar to paraphrasing only when you mirror a client you take emotional content and relate it back to the client. This can be a difficult procedure and an unfamiliar or unknown client may deem this too invasive resulting in a lack of trust.

Summarizing at the end of a conversation is the process where the consultant condenses all of the pertinent and important information and relays it back to the client to confirm they have understood all the clients concerns.

Hetts, S. (1999) Pet Behavior Protocols. What to say, what do do, when to refer. Lakewood, CO AAHA Press