Verbal Communication In Training The Dog

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Verbal Communication In Training The Dog

by Michael Russell

Dogs that work closely with their human masters are capable of learning a large number of verbal and non verbal signals. Some of the most common terms associated with basic training are: "No", "Sit", "Stay", "Down" and "Kennel up". For the trainer, it is important to understand that tone of voice, body language and the actual spoken command, should all be integrated when training a dog.

The trainer must first recognize the old axiom that a command that is repeated when the dog is not DOING it, is completely ineffective and only teaches the dog to ignore the command. For example, repeating the word "sit" three or four times and then finally pushing the dog into a sit will usually just convince the dog that he doesn't need to sit unless you have said it three or four times.

Furthermore, the tone of voice when issuing the command should be crisp and authoritative, loud enough for the dog to recognize the difference between ordinary conversation and a command. A trainer who prolongs or draws out the command word and accompanies this with a questioning tone of voice, (which is a common mistake of the novice trainer), confuses the dog, who does not recognize that the trainer is expecting the dog to perform the command. Often the command word should be accompanied by a slight "correction" or signal either by hand or by touch so as to teach the dog what is expected. For example , a gentle push on the rump or luring the dog into the sitting position with a morsel of food should accompany the word "sit" until the dog comes to understand what that word means. Nearly all commands need to be accompanied at first with a corresponding action on the part of the trainer. For example, the command to "stay" should be accompanied by a flat hand signal directly in front of the dog's face and "no" should be commanded the instant the dog begins to attempt even a slight movement. The "no" should be accompanied by a short sharp jerk on the training collar or another hand signal directly in front of the dog's face. The "stay" command should NOT be repeated. Commands that result in the desired action on the part of the dog should be noticed favorably by the handler. Reward should be an integral part of the training process. For the reward to be effective it should fit the personality of the dog. Many dogs with a high prey drive are highly motivated by the chance to chase or retrieve a toy. Others are most happy with food.

It is not necessary to always reward with food or a toy but it is highly important that frequent praise of some sort be a part of the training process. Quite often verbal words of praise are the most effective reinforcement and are even more effective when accompanied by appropriate body language on the part of the trainer. Words of praise should be overwhelmingly "happy" in their sound and the trainer can also lavishly pat and hug and shower attention and affection on the dog. This kind of praising is often difficult for a male to do. The average man protests that it will make him look ridiculous. But lavish praise along with the happy high voice and lots of hugs and kisses is without a doubt the most desired reward on the part of the dog and often is even more reinforcing than food. Trainers who can act completely and deliriously happy as a reward for the dog are usually very successful trainers.

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Dog Training

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