However close we are to our dogs, however much we love them and care for them, however much we cuddle them and talk to them... we need to remember that (even if we think they understand our every word) they don't and sometimes we can confuse them.
Dogs often become so deeply integrated into our families and lives, that we think they understand everything we say, but this is not the case. So the clearer we can be with the words we use when speaking to our wonderful dogs, the easier their life will be.
Dogs recognise words and commands due to the tone that they are spoken in and how distinctive their sound. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you do not use two similar-sounding words for different commands, such as NO and GO, as not all dogs are able to adequately decode these. Your dog’s name too should be unique, and not similar to the name of anyone else in the family, or any of the commands that you use.
Short words and commands always work better on dogs than multiple syllable words or complex chains, so try to make things simple where possible; for instance it is better to say SIT rather than SIT DOWN, as the meaning is clearer to your dog.
Do not use interchangeable phrases or words to describe the same situation; for instance, if you wish to tell your dog that it is time for their meal, use DINNER TIME or TIME TO EAT and not both at different times.
Below is a useful list of common commands that can form the basis of the core words used when communicating with your dog. You can use different ones, but just make sure that all of the people in the family use them and therefore your doggie gets used to consistent and clear words and commands.
Useful list of common commands
- Sit - the obvious one!
- Down - to lay down on the floor
- Off - to stop jumping up or to get off the sofa, worktop, bed etc
- Drop - to drop a ball, toy or bone from their mouth
- Leave - to stop an instinctive reactions e.g. barking at another dog, barking at vacuuming
- Wait - to wait before they can have food, a treat, by the front door
- Here - use ‘here’ after calling their name, to recall on long line/distance recall
- Slowly - to stop pulling on the lead
What to do
- Write them down, pin them up for the whole family to see and use.
- It is so important for everyone to be consistent and clear when talking to your dog
- Reward your dogs behaviour when they respond to your word/command
Remember to reward positive behaviour within 2 seconds, so if you say 'sit' and they sit down give them the treat within two seconds.
Restrict your voice to three tones
The tone of voice that you use with your dog helps your dog get a feeling for your mood and what you are asking from them. Restrict yourself to using just three different tones of voice when dealing with your dog, to ensure that your message does not get lost in translation. The three tones that you should aim to perfect are ENCOURAGING, for praise, reward and to entice your dog to do something; FIRM, for a command or to get your dog’s attention; and SHARP, if you need to chastise your dog.
Remember to reprimand negative behaviour within 2 seconds - if the word, for example ‘OFF’ is not used within 2 seconds of the bad behaviour, they will not understand that they are doing something wrong.
Written by Nadine Kayser
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