Tuesday Training Tip: Voices and Body Language

12550748334_cd6dca3d15_zMama Sally:  Every day I train dogs and their amazing owners as well.  Believe it or not, it’s often small changes that yield big results when we’re working with our dogs.  Dogs are just masters of very subtle behaviors, and so they often pick up on simple and small things that we can do which will help us to moderate problem behavior.

In America, generally, I think there’s an unspoken rule that says if a little is good, then a lot will be better.  As a result, I often see folks going way overboard in what they’re doing, but all with very good intentions.  Constant big changes in training methods can just be overwhelming to a dog.  It’s difficult for them to go from one extreme to another, bouncing all over the place with various changes owners throw at them.

Here are some very simple things that owners can do which will likely help their dogs respond in a wonderful, positive way.

  • Soften your voice and body language with a scared or uncertain dog.  There are times when I need my full body height and a strong voice, to communicate that I’m in charge, but I never do that with a dog who is scared or uncertain.  That dog needs a soft approach, so that he can trust and feel safe.
  • Say commands one time, and wait three seconds for your dog to respond.  Be quiet while you wait!!  He’s thinking, and trying to remember what behavior goes with the word or hand signal that you’re using.  If he doesn’t respond in 3 seconds, say, “No” and wait another 3 seconds.  This is only going to work if you are asking your dog to perform known commands.  If your dogs has not learned the given command, he can’t comply, because he doesn’t know what you want.
  • Learn to be comfortable being quiet with your dog.  Dogs really do have a very quiet world.  Most of their communication is through body language, facial expression and the ways that they use their eyes.  All of those things are done subtly and quietly most of the time.

Rugby James:  Oh you gotsa listen to the Mama on this one, on account of she makes good sense here.  She really knows what she’s talking about when it comes to doing simple, small fings.  The Mama has learned to take a more gentle approach wif me, and I has learned how to trust her to be safe for me.

Quiet on the PatioOne fing that makes it so much harder for doggers is when Uprights is yakking commands at us all the time!!  When puppies jump up on guests, Uprights is saying, “No!  Down!  Sit!  Stop!  No!!”  Pfft!!  Make up your minds!!  Doggers does what they wanna do unless and until they is stopped doing that naughty stuff.  Barking a bunch of goofy words doesn’t make doggers change what they is doing.

The Mama is generally calm, and doesn’t raise her voice at me hardly at all, especially when we is doing sum training togedder.  If I gets all spun up, she stays calm, and uses a steady and quiet voice wif me.  She doesn’t touch me so much….she lets cookies and the leash talk for her to re-direct me into better behavior.

Lotsa times when I’m hanging out wif the Mama, especially if we’re outside on the patio on a purty day, we just sit togedder and let it be quiet.  I lubs that.  I lubs listening to the birdies, the skirrels and chippymunks, and just feeling and smelling the breeze in my furs.  That’s one of the very bestest fings about being out in the yard, and if there was lotsa talking, it would spoil it all.




  1. MIchelle Schwab says

    Hmmmm.... I wonder if I talk to Spencer too much. Our home is pretty quiet, especially when the kids aren't around, but I do literally talk out loud to him as if we're having a conversation. He typically just looks at me. Do you think this is intrusive for him?

    • Sally says

      I do the exact same thing, Michelle. I doubt if you talk to Spencer too much. When he looks at you, he's probably listening for familiar words....supper, play, outside, etc. That doesn't mean that you can't talk to him at all! But what I often see in working with dog owners is that they incessantly talk AT their dogs while they are training them....ie. saying the command over and over and over....."Sit, Sit, Sparky Sit. Sit, Sparky! Come on now! You KNOW this! SIT!" And honestly, the dog is trying to remember what sit means, but they can't focus because their owner is barking commands at them! I say the command one time and hush and wait for the dog to remember what I want from him. Carrying on an everyday conversation with your dog, or encouraging him on walks is perfect! Sometimes, Rugby and I just sit quietly together and observe. He really seems to like this interaction with me, and I think other dogs will enjoy it too, if their owners make it a part of their interactions with their dog! Thanks for reading and for your question! 😀


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