The Universal Language of Pets


Nashville, TN -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/06/2006 --Any pet owner knows that animals have rich emotional lives and that they love to be talked to. And, just as with humans, there is a right way and a wrong way to initiate communication. It is important to keep two critical factors in mind when attempting to establish a good relationship with an animal: 1) how to enter the animal’s personal space, and 2) what tone of voice to use.

“Don’t just charge right into an animal’s space without signaling that your intentions are harmless,” says expert voice coach Renee Grant-Williams. “Think how large and unpredictable we must appear to the average household pet. If you were swimming next to a blue whale, you would probably be more comfortable if you had a few clues about what it had in mind.”

Grant-Williams says to always speak in low, reassuring tones when approaching an animal so it has a sense of the situation and can feel comfortable. Like humans, animals detect friendliness, anxiety, or anger in the tone of a person’s voice.

“After approaching an animal, make vocal adjustments depending on the desired response,” Grant-Williams says. “For instance, use soft soothing tones when playing and cuddling, but use deep, firm tones when commanding a pet.”

“Do not make commands sound like questions or pleas by lifting your voice at the end,” Grant-Williams advises. “A command should be obeyed, do not politely ask your pet to do something, command it. As with children, pets take their cues from the tone of your voice.”

Grant-Williams says dogs, in particular, are pack animals and each pack must have a leader.

“The owner is that leader and must earn the respect of the dog,” she says. “Urgent commands must be given in a way that the dog knows it is expected to take heed; the command must sound like a growl. Think about a dog’s growl, the sound comes from way down inside, which is why it sounds so intimidating.”

Grant-Williams says a pet owner must sound similar in order to be convincing. “The voice you use must be deep, firm and sharp,” she says. “Be sure to breathe low and use good support so the dog will hear the commitment behind the command.”

Finally, Grant-Williams advises following training commands with a lighter, higher tone “good boy!” as a reward.

Grant-Williams offers more advice in her book, “Voice Power: Using Your Voice to Captivate, Persuade, and Command Attention” (AMACOM, New York). This book is endorsed by Paul Harvey and was selected by “Soundview Executive Book Summaries” as one of the best business books of 2002.

She coaches business executives, sales professionals and celebrities including Faith Hill, the Dixie Chicks, Linda Ronstadt, Tim McGraw, and Christina Aguilera. She presents speaking programs to organizations throughout the United States and has been quoted by Cosmopolitan, US Weekly, TV Guide, Business Week, Southern Living, the Associated Press, UPI, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She has appeared on many broadcast outlets including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Bravo, USA, MTV, CMT, GAC, BBC, PBS, and NPR. Grant-Williams is a former instructor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as well as the former director of the Division of Vocal Music at the University of California, Berkeley.