Anyone Can Train Their Dog – June 2015

Anyone Can Train Their Dog

By Art Hess

Can a dog really understand English words?


dogtrainerYes… if you link the words to the appropriate object or action. Dogs can learn language just like infants do. You hold up a teddy bear and say “teddy” to your infant over and over and soon he associates the sound with the item. But imagine if you said “teddy” to the child, over and over—but didn’t hold up the teddy bear. Your baby wouldn’t have the slightest idea what you meant. Until you connect a word with an object or action, words are only meaningless sounds. When you listen to a conversation in a foreign language, you can’t understand it because…..

*The words are not connected to anything concrete. The speaker simply chatters   on and on without pointing to anything in the real world.

*The sounds all run together. You don’t know where one word ends and the next word begins. Don’t foreign languages always sound impossibly fast? They sound like one long run-on sentence, with no separate words. Well that’s what English sounds like to your dog.

But let’s say a French speaking person repeated a single sound—one sound only—let’s say the sound “pom.” If he repeated this clearly and distinctly, while at the same time holding up an apple, you’d get it, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t know how to spell it, it’s actually spelled pomme. But that doesn’t matter because you would understand that the sound “pom” refers to the round red fruit with the stem and green leaves’

You must do this with your dog too.

1. Enunciate clearly and distinctly

2. Connect the sound to an appropriate object or action.

In this way, a sound becomes a word to your dog.

A word is a sound with a meaning. You must show your dog what that meaning is.

So where do we start? How about breakfast? For the purpose of this discussion I’m assuming you are already working on the dog’s name. We have the dog in our presence and we fill the dish and we look at him as we put his food down and we say one word. Breakfast. There we have it, an item, breakfast, and a word. If we repeat that, with no other words or items, our dog will learn the meaning of the word breakfast.

Now with a little thought you can come up with lots of items or actions which you can tie to one word and soon your dog will be concentrating and associating those English words you’re saying to an item or an action.

If you don’t educate your dog he will never be the dog he could have been, A dog who is properly educated is a “thinking” dog. A “thinking” dog is not a robot that just does things mechanically. A “thinking” dog listens carefully. He looks at your face, “reads” your expressions and body language, and tries to piece individual words together into complex actions. The more you work with your dog as a team member the easier it becomes for him, and soon he’s understanding more and more of what you expect of him. Soon you will be using many words with your buddy and your relationship will become even stronger and more fun.

Loose leashes, Happy Tails.



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