Written by JR Johnson Wolf, Trainer at Charleston Dog Wizard
As a dog-trainer for years now, I’ve noticed dog owners have a wide range of sounds and techniques used to communicate with their pups. From a high pitched nasal voice to coo-ing, clapping, and the forever useful “game-show/dolphin buzzer noise (annhe eeh ennhh eeen uunnnh!)” , dog owners make sounds to indicate a moment when a pup is making a moderate mistake. The point of this article is to help dog-owners better understand communication and the cues they are giving to their pup when they are not “speaking to them”.
To begin this conversation, understand that pups are equally working animals as well as companion animals. It should also be noted that the distinction between these two labels is most evident when a pup is making a mistake OR when the family is showing their pup affection. Families will find themselves seamlessly alternating between imitating what their dog’s inner thoughts and “voice” must sound like with voice-impressions, praise and petting to yelling and raising their voice to get their pup to give the new houseguest some personal space or to stop chewing.
The common household communicates with their pup from a place of companionship the majority of their day. This is only an issue when the parent switches tones/communication styles in an attempt to gain more compliance from the pup. The parent has spent 90% of the day treating the pup as an “equal and an independent being/roommate/human-child” only to switch into a tone of authority and commands for a small amount of the day.
The vast differences in the time of use between companion language and command language causes communication imbalances. That high imbalance is what creates the biggest obstacles for dog owners who are lacking structure and obedience in their pups. Simply put, if your dog is accustomed to doing whatever they please, you are going to have a tougher time getting your pup into a working frame of mind and you shouldn’t be surprised that the pup is following their impulses.
Instead, intentionally spread REAL working commands and scenarios throughout your dogs day. Sitting longer and longer durations for meals/treats is a just a start. This will invigorate and maintain the obedience bond that you share with your pup because they will come to expect your level of work and expectations rising to meet them. Make your day with your pup 50/50 (companion language vs work language) whenever possible.
See you guys on the happy side of the leash!