Teach your puppy to understand you

There are 6 specific things that your dog needs to understand in order to interpret your communication with them throughout the training process.

Keep in mind that your body language communicates as much or more to your dog as what you say!

Tone is hugely important to dogs, be authentic with your voice and body language.

1. Teach your dog what it looks like and sounds like when you are inviting them to engage with you. As you bring your puppy home and play with them, you will naturally incorporate body language, gestures, postures, funny voices, phrases etc. that are specific to you and sometimes to each dog. Pay attention to what you do and use these things deliberately as part of play. You don't have to sound like anyone else, but do notice what your puppy responds to. What sends them through the roof, what causes a flinch reaction, what calms them, what makes them laugh. The quintessential phrase "ready????steady???" has a rhythm that dogs learn to love and it is incredibly useful in indicating to your dog that something great is about to happen.

2. Teach your dog what you look like and sound like when you are having a blast. This is very similar to item #1 but do let your dog know that you like what is happening. Laughing is good. "I'm gonna gotcha" is good. Whatever it is, make sure your dog knows you are authentically having a good time.

3. Teach them what it sounds like when you are asking them to do something (command: neutral and confident). There are commands "GET OUT OF THE STREET!" and there are commands "Fido, wait". There are good commands, clear,short,consistent. And there are rotten commands "can you come, here, and waity wait?" Make sure your command voice is under your control! "WEAVEWEAVEWEAVE" maybe doesn't convey the relaxed confident command you would like to communicate to your dog.

4. Teach them what it sounds like when you are happy with the choice they made (praise: authentic and emphatic). Again, this is specific to you "you did it!" "what a clever girl you are!" "nicely done mister!". You don't have to project or holler at your dog, but do be emphatic like you mean it.

5. Teach them what it sounds like the instant they have earned a reward by making a good choice or performing a reinforcable behavior (marker: consistent click or “yes” or "nice"). Some people can use "good" but be wary of good, good job, great, GOOD, good?, grrreeattt.

6. Teach them what it sounds like when you do not like the choice they just made (correction: calm and pointed). My correction is “hey” and it is also a command - it means “stop what you are doing and look to me for information”. In other words, I teach my correction as a command instead of an indication of my unhappiness. I highly recommend this.

NOTE: You can also teach a no-reward marker, such as "nope" or "try again". I don't use this much, but many people do. I just praise the dog for trying but don't follow through with a high value reward.

© 2017 by Andrea Dexter @ Agilityflix