Anyone Can Train Their Dog – March 2017

Anyone Can Train Their Dog

By Art Hess

Vocal Communication – Your Vocabulary


Dogs are capable of learning to understand more than 200 words and you will develop your own  way of carrying on a conversation. In addition to the importance of the tone of your voice and the use of your body language you will create a vocabulary of signals for cuing your dog.

You may have already established a vocabulary of signals with your dog. Any words you use are fine as long as they get the message across. Be sure that each signal has only one meaning and one expected response.

Two common mistakes are the way people use “come” and “down”. People will often yell “Down!” when the dog is jumping up on someone. Then when they want him to lie down they say the same thing. “Off” is used for directing the dog not to jump up while “Down” means lie down.

“Come” is even more of a problem. It can mean “Come on, we are going somewhere” or “Come here,” “Come on do it, cooperate, as in right now” or “Come on, cut that out” or probably a dozen other things. It is confusing for the dog to grasp the importance of coming to you when the word also means so many other things and encourages a selective response.

Make sure each of the words in your teaching vocabulary refer to only one specific action you want the dog to perform. Be consistent.

My vocabulary suggestions are as follows:

LET’S GO. Use this when you and the dog are striking out to go somewhere, usually on a leash. Do not use “Come on” because the word “Come” means to come to you from a distance.

SIT. This directs the dog the dog to assume a sitting position. Do not allow any compromise. Sit means sit always.

DOWN. Use this to mean “Lie Down.” In formal Obedience work this means lying squarely with the paws and head pointing straight ahead. For regular daily use lying quietly on the side is all right but rolling around and semi out of control is not acceptable.

COME. This means that the dog is to briskly come to you from a distant position and to sit directly in front of you within touch. Make sure you ONLY use this word for this reason.

HEEL. With this the dog is expected to walk with her shoulder even with your leg at all times, to maintain that position regardless of your pace or direction, and to sit automatically when you stop.

STAY. The dog is to remain exactly in the spot and body position you asked for and to hold that position until you release him or direct him to another action or position.

WAIT. This means the dog is not to proceed any farther forward. This is different from the “Stay,” which means “Freeze.” “Wait” means “Stop all forward motion.” This is useful when opening doors, groping for keys, lifting packages, or checking for traffic etc.

FREE or THAT’S ALL. This is a release cue that tells the dog to relax. It’s like saying “All done.” We don’t use “Okay” because it is very common in conversation and can be confusing for the dog.

There are a few “Correction” words such as OFF which is self explanatory, OUTSIDE  and  INSIDE which are directives, and LEAVE IT and DROP IT which are corrections.

Directive cues are given in a pleasant but emphatic tone of voice and corrective cues are given in a firm tone of voice that indicates strong disapproval. Your release cue is given in an enthusiastic and happy tone of voice.

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