I was watching the Detroit Lions last Sunday and I yelled at the television, (yes I yell at the TV during sporting events) “Come on Lions, lets SCORE!” My sleeping dogs jumped to their feet, ears erect, and stared at me intensely. I said, “What? You guys don’t know the word score.” I then repeated score several times, loudly. They started running around the house, looking out the windows, and staring at me like they knew exactly what I was talking about. I thought about it and I know they only know a few commands. Only after yelling “Score” again, I concluded that score is very similar to Squirrel. They thought I was saying Squirrel. I laughed and let them out into the darkness, it was 9:30pm. The dogs ran around the yard to see, there in fact are no squirrels invading their yard.
When training commands, it’s not so much what you say but how you say it. My first working dog knew commands in English, Dutch, and German. The trick is to say the command in the same intonation and volume. Sit is higher pitch sound going up a little in tones. So it didn’t matter whether I said, “Sit, Zits, or Sitz”. Down was “Down, Af or Platz”. Down tone was lower and more forceful. I teach all my clients that it’s not so much what you say but how you say it. Now add body language to it and learning becomes even easier for the dog. I believe dogs learn quicker by reading our body language rather us giving the command. Add hand signals to your verbal cues and they will pick up what you want so much quicker. Have you ever prepared for a training session whether you are going to train sits, downs, or stands and before you even give the cue your dog is doing the behavior? This occurs because the dog is so in tune to our pre-behavior and cues prior to the training, they already know what’s coming. Dogs are incredible animals!
Now you mark the behavior and they learn even quicker. You can mark by using a clicker or saying “yes”, then reward. I have been told by trainer’s who use clickers that the clicker actually is a better marker than saying “yes”. My problem is that I’m old school and a clicker is just another training tool I have to have in my hand. So I say the word “yes” to mark. It seems to work fine for me. The best advice I can give people who are looking for a trainer, is find someone whose personality you like, your dog likes, and someone who gets results. I have trained with a lot of trainers. Some techniques I take home and use and others don’t seem to work for me. Take what works for you and your dog and leave what doesn’t behind. But try everything. If you pay money to go to a training seminar, I always try what is being taught by the instructor. I put in 100%. If I don’t like it, I just don’t use it once I get home. I do not “cop an attitude” and become argumentative with the instructor. I keep my mouth shut and give their instructions a try. Sometimes things you don’t think will work actually does work. Now get up from your computer and go take your dog for a walk. 😉