There is a lot of information on the web about dog behaviour, some more accurate than others. My objective with this article is not to write a long essay on the significance of dog behaviour and the latest discoveries, but rather make you, the reader, think about why it is important to let dogs speak.
In essence, dog language is all about developing and maintaining harmonious relationships, not dominance or submission. Canines want the same thing humans want, which is to live, as much as possible, in a conflict free environment. To attain this goal, dogs have developed a complex language. The funny thing is, the dog and human language shares similarities. Both species use words which can hold various meaning depending on the context; furthermore, these words can be combined in different sequences in order to form alternate significances. Look at the sentences bellow.
My father was married before he died.
My father died before he was married.
Those same seven words, when placed in a different sequence, express a totally different message. Dogs can do the same with their language. Your canine companion can use avoidance, appeasement, stress release, agonistic, fear, etc. to form various meanings depending on the situation. Your dog can say to another dog "leave me alone, I'm scared, but I'll defend myself if you come closer" or can change the meaning by simply altering one or two behaviours and say "leave me alone, I'm scared, and I'll run away if you come closer". In the same situation, the dog can say many, many different things. The question is, is anybody listening?
The canine ethogram, aka dog dictionary, holds hundreds of behaviours (words) grouped in approximately twenty plus categories. These behaviours can be combined to form endless meaningful possibilities (sentences). When people interfere in dog communication they create more problems than they solve because they breakdown the dog-dog line of communication.
The family pet does not need to be told when to stop a play session or cease to sniff another dog's posterior. They can and will tell other dogs when and why to stop, and believe me, they will use those hundreds words to let others know how they feel.
It is important to let dogs speak in order to let them live well adjusted lives. For, without the ability to effectively communicate, dogs will find the necessary means to make their voices heard, and those means normally involve sutures and bandages. Have you ever stepped in between two arguing people only to be told to f*** off! Why did they tell you this? Because people need to resolve their conflicts before they can move on. Guess what? So do dogs!
On a final note, those who reduce dog communication to dominance and submission are condemning dogs to live a life of bitterness, frustration, aggression, fear, and confusion. If people explained human behaviour solely in terms of confidence and insecurity, all meaning would be lost and communication made pointless; people would be frustrated, angry, and confused. Language, whatever the species, is far more complex and needs to be learned if we are to live in a conflict free environment.