Have you ever noticed that your dog seems to listen to some people better than others? Dogs do not make conscious decisions about whether they will respond to a command. Strong training and communication skills can help you work with even the most “rebellious” dog. Your tone and the way you use your words are key to making a dog listen.
Watch Your Tone
Everyone gets frustrated with their dog sometimes. It’s normal! But when this frustration comes through in your tone of voice, your dog will pick up on it, even when it’s subtle. If there’s no urgent need to recall your dog or ask for a command, take a break, take a deep breath, and work with your dog when you’re in a calmer mood.
This is especially true when you are saying your dog’s name, or asking them to recall. If you use a stern tone, or for some more fearful dogs, even a mildly firm voice, your dog may avoid you. Signs of fearfulness can actually make it seem like your dog is ignoring you. Displacement behaviours like sniffing the ground, scratching or full body shakes occur when a dog is unsure how to proceed.
Always pair your dog’s name or their recall command with a cheerful tone, followed by praise and a reward when they respond. You don’t always have to give your dog a treat, intermittent food rewards are fine, just be sure to praise your dog when they come to you.
Whenever you need to clip your dog’s nails or give them a bath, avoid calling them. Go retrieve them instead, or they may develop a negative association with the sound of their name or recall commend.
Giving Words Their Power
Highly reinforced words and phrases will instantly get your dog’s attention. Try saying the same simple word before you feed your dog – for example, “breakfast!” and watch how quickly it becomes your dog’s favourite word. Teach your dog longer phrases like “let’s go for a drive!” by emphasizing the most important word – in this case, “drive.” If your dog loves breakfast and going for a drive, it’ll only take a few repetitions to build strong, positive associations.
When calling your dog, use a short, simple phrase. You should say, just once, “Here!” Avoid repeating yourself, or your dog may learn that they do not have to take your first few calls seriously.
Dogs Have Excellent Hearing
When dogs do not listen, we may be tempted to speak or shout more loudly. However, a dog’s sense of hearing is at least four times better than a human’s, with the ability to hear sounds from a greater distance and at a higher pitch. So, you rarely will need to raise your voice to ensure that your dog hears you.
Your dog may have a difficult time hearing you when they are over threshold. If they are completely absorbed in barking at another dog or stalking a squirrel, they may not hear you no matter how much you raise your voice. In these cases, it’s more effective to get closer to the dog than to make yourself louder.
A high pitched whistle is a great way to get your dog’s attention, even from a distance. As a bonus, if you’re frustrated or anxious, your emotions will not be apparent through the sound of your whistle.
Do Dogs Respond To “Baby Voice”?
Some people can’t resist cooing over a cute dog, and it turns out that silly voices can help get your dog’s attention. Researchers from the University of York observing the effect of Dog Directed Speech (DDS). a high pitched voice with tonal variances found that adult dogs respond well to silly voices when combined with key familiar words like “Want go to for a WALK?”
A different research study from the University of Lyon/Saint-Etienne in France found that DDS is significantly more effective with puppies than adult dogs. That silly voice may have mixed results with your dog, though it certainly can’t hurt.
Sharpening Your Dog’s Listening Skills
Naturally, the more you train your dog and reward them for listening to you, the more they will choose, and even get excited to hear your voice. Using a clicker will sharpen your dog’s skills even more. You can use both your voice and a clicker to accurately praise and reward good behaviours and develop their focus. By setting your dog up for success and gradually increasing your reward threshold, you can encourage your dog to enjoy training and look forward to your commands.