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Tuesday Training Byte: What you say and how you say it.

Some time back I wrote about giving you dog clear commands. To be sure, dogs communicate mostly by body language and understand it far better than words. When first teaching a dog a new command, I add food luring and/or body language that would make it more clear to my pup what I want him to do. Here are a few tips that help the human part of the team communicate better to their dog:

  1. Use an upbeat voice. Start with the dog's name, followed by the one word command, such as "Garnet, sit!" in a higher tone., If you are shouting out the commands in a loud or gruff manner, your dog will likely resist. I find that this upbeat tone is the most important key to invite my dog to willingly join me as my partner.

  2. Keep it simple. Choose commands that are one word or two words at most. Dogs have a much harder time figuring out what you want when you string several words together.

  3. Be clear. Choose distinct commands for specific tasks. I do not use the word "Here!" when calling my dog because it is too similar to "Heel!". Another example is choosing the word "Off!" when the dog jumps up on you, rather don't use the word "Down!", because down is the command for laying down.

  4. Be consistent. Choose your command words carefully at the beginning so that you are always giving the same command instead of variations for a particular task. Following rule #2 (Keep it simple)- I use the word "Down" and do not interchange it with lay, lie, lie down, go lie down, lay down.

  5. Silence is golden. When training, I rely more on body language and food lures/hand motions to communicate with my dog, so there is no need for a constant barrage of words. I do not nag. I give the dog's name ONCE to get it's attention, then the one- word command while I wait for the dog to respond. Once the dog is in the correct position requested, I follow up with the marker word, "Yes!" and a treat. If you keep calling out your dog's name and a string of commands, it becomes confusing to your dog.

I suggest that you put a leash around a throw pillow and practice as though it is your dog, giving the commands without your dog present. Use whatever hand motions and body language appropriate for each command. If you have someone video you, then you can review it to see where you need to improve. Happy voice = Happy training!

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