Talking to your Dog

Whisper your dog’s name and watch him perk up as he recognizes it. But apart from his name, most of the words you use will sound Greek to him. That is, until you teach him to associate specific words with specific meanings. He will be able to understand what you say to him if you base your commands on his language. If you’re comfortable talking happy dog talk, he’ll be a joyous worker. Add your own different tones, emotions and movements, and you’re ready to start training.

The most successful training happens when you are enthusiastic and confident that what you’re doing is right for you and him. “He’ll try to copy you as much as he can, so being in a good mood will definitely affect him,” says Myers. Don’t doubt your own judgment when giving corrections, because your dog will sense your indecision. “If you’re confused about what he should be doing, he’ll be scratching his head, too”

Tone of Voice:
“The pitch of your voice plays a big part in teaching your dog what you want him to do,” says Janice DeMello, an obedience trainer in Somis, California. “It’s not what you say but how you say it that counts.” When you’re excited and praise him with a light, upbeat tone, it reminds your dog of the whiny sounds he makes when he’s excited. “Don’t get too high-pitched because that irritates most dogs, but don’t let your voice go too deep either,” says DeMello. With commands, it’s okay to bark orders; because that’s the range of tone your dog understands – matter – of – fact and filled with authority. To correct, keep the tone, low like a growl.

“You have to keep your emotions out of training,” says Myers. “When you’re happy your dog did well, it’s okay to be exuberant, but that’s the only time.” Negative feelings hinder productive training sessions. If a dog doesn’t respond to your command there is no point in getting angry. Yelling and screaming will just scare him and make him feel insecure. Since he can’t figure out why you’re mad at him, he may repeat the act, or hi might just shut down and do nothing.

Your dog is a constant meter-reader, registering everything about you – your body language, facial expression, and what your hands and legs are doing. If it moves, your dog watches it. This is how he guesses what will happen next. Where your body is in relationship to your dog is particularly important when you’re training. If you tell your dog to “Stay” and move forward, it is likely that he will move forward, too. But if you stay, he will get the idea of what you want him to do from your behavior. They key to making all the right moves is to use all of your skills – body language, tone and attitude – and match them with the correct word commands.