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TIP: Talk Less. Gain More

Updated: Mar 18

When was the last time you spoke to your dog and he spoke back? NO ... I don't mean "responded" to your words ... I mean SPOKE actual human words back you in conversation? If you answered anything other than "NEVER" it may be time to seek out a therapist!


NOW ... Let's read about why it is important to speak LESS to your dog (especially during training) so that you can get MORE out of him/her in terms of desired behavior responses.


During our group classes here at BlackFoot Kennels, we begin with a 3 to 5 minute SILENT warm up to build engagement. This little break from verbal always almost instantly "links" each dog with his/her trainer. It's such a beautiful thing to see the dogs start to focus their attention more and more on the people and less on the environment and the other dogs in attendance. Dogs listen more to what we do than what we say. Here, Im going to break it down nice simple for you:


  1. Dogs have desire to indulge their DRIVES (pack, play, prey, fight, food). NONE of those can be satisfied by spoken communication alone. Therefore, it is only natural for dogs to choose to focus their attention elsewhere.

  2. Dogs do NOT have their own verbal language, therefore the more we talk to them, the more the words simply become unimportant background noise.

  3. Dogs learn to respond to our words (obedience commands) when it is clear to them that specific words are directly linked to specific behaviors. The more we talk to our dogs without effectively teaching them what the words mean, the LESS meaningful the words become.

"SIT" "SIT" "SIT" "SIT" "SIT" "SIT"

Confession time! How often have you repeated a command to your dog while he/she is completely "checked out"? Focusing his attention elsewhere?


Every time you do this, you are doing two things that will hurt your training progress:

  1. You are making the sound of your voice less powerful.Your voice is becoming background noise that holds no value.

  • Your dog is NOT listening. He/she might be hearing you, but certainly not listening, so you are making the sound of your voice and the command you are saying extremely unimportant.

  • You are ruining your obedience command.

  • In this example we are using the word "SIT." When your dog hears the word "sit" as a sound in the background, he is learning that SIT means nothing! There is no consequence for not sitting, and, there is no reward for sitting. Even if you are waving a treat around or threatening with correction. Repeating commands over and over without training effectively paired with the command, the verbal command becomes nothing more than sound.

BE THE SQUIRREL

Because we speak a verbal language, people are quick to try and use words to bargain, bribe, console, and reason with our dogs. NONE of this is effective communication. In fact, often tone of voice can actually be counter productive to the intended goal.


Scenario / example; you are traveling with your dog and at the pet friendly hotel where you are staying you find out that he is scared of elevator rides. The entire time you travel in the elevator, as your dog freezes and shivers you pet him and offering consoling words and tone of voice. Not only do the words you are speaking hold no meaning or value, but, you are also inadvertently rewarding him for the nervous behavior. Because the human tone and cadence of speech for consolation can easily sound and "feel" the same as price to a dog.


What does all this have to do with a squirrel? Well, here it is in a nut shell (see what I did there)? Our voices and our WORDS cannot compete with the environment as a stand-alone tool for getting a dog's attention. When it comes to the squirrel chasers of the world, I have seen it time and time again, dog pulls on the leash like a professional sled racer with owner dragging in the wake, saying something to the tune of "no, no , no here, heel, come, no no." as the dog completely ignores all the words and all the pulling on the leash.


If your dog is focusing on the squirrels when you take a walk, carry a special (for walks only) fuzzy squirrel tail style tug toy in your pocket. At random times during your walk *especially when there are NO squirrels around* take out the toy and have a fun game of chase and tug. Say no words. Move your body and tease with the toy in a way that elicits a fast and fun "prey" reaction from your dog. Allow him to catch your "pocket squirrel" and tug / hold it for a bit. Take the toy back, hide it back in your pocket and continue in your walk. Practice this game a few times during each walk you take. Each time you are building and satisfying your dog's natural prey drive. The same exact reason your dog usually blows you off and ignores you during walks.


SUMMARY

Dog's don't have a spoken language and we do. Remember that when you look at your dog. Quiet observation of their body language will help you learn to move and respond to your dog in a way that will enhance your true communication. During training we use techniques like luring, baiting, body blocking, and spacial pressure to manipulate and mold a dog's behavior. These techniques paired with consistent use of specific verbal commands are a great recipe for successful learning.


Speak LESS.

Your words become much more meaningful and powerful when you do use them.

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