How we speak to our dogs has been raised in connection with commands” we give to our dogs.
- Which words are best used when communicating with your dog.
- Is how we say them really important?
The power of words and intention when you verbally communicate with your dog
Many do not like the word “command”. They preferred the word “cue”. Others say it did not matter as long as the word was issued in a kind way. It was agreed the word was unimportant, as dogs do not interpret the word, just the intention behind it.
I have always believed that this is correct in as much as you could just as easily use the word “bananas” as a cue word, accompanied with the appropriate body language. To invite your dog to join you with a word, is just a sound to catch your dog’s attention. It is mainly the body language to which he responds. We as humans communicate largely by speaking. Body language is important, but vocal communication, the inflexions we put on our words, as well as the words themselves, are the means by which we express ourselves.
To accept that words in themselves are largely meaningless for dogs, why does it matter what words we use?
I believe that the words we speak create a state of mind within ourselves.
You will probably laugh, but I always say “Excuse me sweetheart” when I speak to my dog and need it to move. I don’t say “Move” or “Out the way” (well…. maybe sometimes!), but until this discussion was instigated, never thought about why.
Our choice of words, without a doubt, affects our mental state, so for me
- It makes sense to use words or phrases which create the state of mind useful when educating your dog.
- Respect for him as a sensate creature, calm, confidence without dominance.
- The feeling that “We are friends, in this together” projects this state of “being” to our dogs.
- So, “Excuse me sweetheart” immediately creates a feeling of respect for my dogs in my head –
- Ask, not command, them to comply.
- “Out the way” or “Move”, would create a feeling of disrespect.
Create a partnership between you and your dog
One who looks to me for guidance when a confusing situation arises. A thinking dog who makes good choices on its own. A dog aware and connected to me. One ready to follow my requests.
Not a dog which jumps to attention at the trigger of a command word without thought. I believe mutual respect and trust is an essential starting point. Purely for humans, the choice of words matter.
Abrupt words are only needed for safety sake. To get the point over with urgency.
Words like “No”, “Leave”, “Wait”, “Come” have their place when something needs to happen immediately for safety. If they are used only when necessary, in the tone which brooks no argument, they are effective. It is quite hard to use words like these without sounding “commanding”. Educate your dog with understanding and empathy then being “commanding” is only necessary for certain situations.
We need to look for co-operation, not obedience in our dogs
I have respect and love for my dogs. I have to be in charge in a world where they are dependent on me. I need co-operation, not “obedience”. That may seem to be something of an oxymoron when I DO expect them to follow my wishes. Just because I want them to “Do as I say” does not mean I have to come across as an uncompromising dictator.
By Lesley Harris
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