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It’s the Way You Say It

It’s The Way You Say It

The prime form of communication between humans is through the use of words, words spoken by means of a voice. Because words tell us so much, often the human does not always read other communication signals  as  well as animals do. Dogs do not use  words  to  pass information because they cannot speak, they  make  sounds   sometimes  quite complex ones but their main way of communicating  is through body and eye language, maybe even scent and mental communications.  When  we speak therefore to a dog it is  receiving  a much  more  complex  signal than just words. In fact  it  is  not really  hearing words and understanding them as we do, but  it  is hearing  sounds  which it then learns to associate  with  certain actions.  We attract attention with our voices, and the  dog  will learn  to react in a particular way if we show it what to  do  in relation  to that sound, and the voice is especially of value  in an  emergency  when attention has to be grabbed to avoid  an  unpleasant situation.

By using our voices and specific words, and then linking them  to the actions  we  require from our dog, we can train it  to  carry  out these specific actions, or to behave in a particular way. Once the ‘commands’  or  words that initiate a response are known  by  the dog, they become the base of other taught communications, communications passed by whistle, signal or other stimuli. A dog whistle is  just a whistle and a dog does not know to come to two  blasts unless  it has been taught what it means. Mainly this is done  by teaching  the dog to come to a command or its name being called and then  preceding  this  with whistle blasts. When the  dog  hears  the whistle blast he knows he is going to be called and heads for the owner.  Very  quickly the verbal command is no  longer  required.  Learning through  association with what is already known is  an  excellent way of training any animal.

The meaning of the word is irrelevant except that it helps us  to understand  what is required and comes easily to the  lips.  Most important  is what the dog understands by the sound of the  word. It  is quite easy to get a dog to sit to a variety of words  even ‘Christmas’ or ‘Stand’ if it relates the action of sitting to the sound  given.  If you become exasperated or angry with a dog  and say “come here” or “Ben here”, the tone will be telling the  dog something  completely  different  from those words.  You  may  be thinking  “Come here you little devil and everything will be  OK”. the dog is thinking “If I go over there now I am in for big trouble!” The sound of your words has to have shape, it has to  indicate exactly what you want and in many instances you will have to act  to get the words coming out right for the reaction  you  require.  Put  the right sounds with a corresponding touch  of  the hands, look from the eye and position of your body and it  speaks volumes.

Play  with sounds around your dog and see which catch its  attention and which command attention. In training avoid the excitable ones,  an  excitable dog looses its mind. Avoid also  the  sounds that  bring fear, because this clears the mind of any  thought  or concentration and brings in panic. A dog threatening another will give  low  growls, and when showing pleasure will moan  or  whine lightly, they only go into higher volumes in fear, excitement  or fighting.  An angry loud voice will bring about fear,  and  often confusion.  A  voice which shows contempt and almost  disgust  at something  wrong often brings a more controlled feeling of  doing wrong  from your dog. Your voice has to communicate  with  sounds that calm, reassure, show pleasure, show displeasure,  encourage, motivate, and enthuse; and dependent upon the dog, get the result  you are  wanting. No two dogs are the same and a harsh sound  to  one may be nothing to another. I do however think that a dog has also to be shown what displeasure is. Constant nagging and threats not followed  up are just background music to a dog, as  is  constant praise given for no reason.

If  there  is  a rule of voice it is to use it as  little  as  is required  with as low a volume as necessary to get  the  required results.  A quiet calm approach often brings about a quiet,  calm dog. A sensible voice brings out a sensible dog. If you speak  to the dog in low volumes and calmly you can always increase  volume when  required but if you are constantly shouting  and  demanding ‘sit’  or ‘here’ at the top of your voice then you have no  where else to go in volume when the need arises. The other main  reason for  a calm voice with a low volume is that it will get your  dog to pay attention and to listen harder. A dog generally has better hearing  than  humans, some such as the dogs with  pricked  ears, infinitely better. Have no doubts a dog can hear when you  speak, now  make them concentrate harder. Speaking low however does  not automatically get them concentrating and a dogs mind will wander. So  catch their attention, be in control and use words which  the dog wants to hear and responds to.

Use  as much as possible, words with a maximum of  two  syllables, and  use one word per job you want your pup to do. As an  example ‘Fetch’, ‘Sit’, ‘C’mon’ (two words into one). And if you like  to use  your dogs name then put that first to catch  its  attention. ‘Ben (pause) Fetch’ the emphasis should be on ‘Fetch’ and that is the last word the dog has heard. If you say ‘Fetch – Ben’ the pup hears  its name last and may want to stay with you.  Keep  everything clear and without confusion. You can bet your bottom dollar that if confusion is possible it will happen.

As I said in the beginning the voice is only one of the  communicators, so spell the message out through every channel but remember,  as  you have probably been told by someone else ‘It  is  not what you said – it was the way that you said it!’