Health & Wellness
Can your tone of voice affect your dog’s training?
Yes, and you may want to save your cute voice for playtime.
Dogs may be more responsive to dog-directed speech or puppy talk, but using your cute dog-parent voice isn’t always the best when it comes to training your dog. It’s important to know that your tone of voice definitely affects the way your dog or puppy learns, and sometimes you need to bring out a more stern tone to keep your pup safe while training.
Tone of voice dog training
Dog-directed speech usually uses a slower tempo and a more high-pitch tone. Using this type of speech, you may be more likely to capture and hold the attention of your pup than when using a more human-directed tone, which has a more rhythmic tempo and consistent pitch.
Puppy talk may be more helpful when you’re just starting to work with your dog or newly adopted puppy on training, from name recognition to basic obedience.
“It’s usually helpful to begin by conditioning your dog positively to their name. So when starting out, say their name and then do something fun or delicious or otherwise enjoyable,” Anthony Newman of Calm Energy Dog Training says. “However, after your dog knows their name and has a positive association with it, you can start adding other tones that are sterner or sharper to quickly and effectively communicate boundaries.”
Pups are experts at understanding tone and body language, so if you want them to understand the difference between play and discipline, it’s important to switch up your tone of voice based on the situation.
That said, there’s a big difference between using a stern tone and scaring your dog. You never want to yell or in any way intimidate your dog, as that may cause your pup stress or anxiety and can even damage your loving, trusting relationship.
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How to communicate with dogs
When talking to and training your dog, Newman recommends using your full range of expressions to help them learn and understand how to behave. Even in behavioral classes, you should be expressive and clear when communicating with your dog.
“Try to remember that most good behavior comes from calmness, not exciting or obsessive treat-based rewards,” Newman says. “So using a calm tone — and I love the calm reward of bellyrubs — can be highly effective at getting and rewarding the behaviors we want.”
Can dogs understand humans?
Your dog understands more than you may realize. That’s why it’s important to vary your tone when it comes to playtime and bedtime versus a serious situation.
“Dogs are communicative, intelligent, compassionate, understanding, social and emotional beings with an ability to understand and communicate very much akin to humans,” Newman says. “They know the difference between a sharp corrective tone and a happy fun approving praising tone.”
So what about older dogs?
Whether your dog is a puppy or senior, you should still be mindful of the tone you're using for play and for discipline. Training your dog to recognize your unique voice and its situation-specific tones can capture your dog’s attention in a positive way at home and at the park.
It’s never too late to train your dog. So if you’ve recently adopted an older dog, just be sure to be consistent, clear and have fun when it’s time to start training.
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