How to give your dog commands

Walking through Home Depot with Scout, our female Dutch Shepherd, the other day got me thinking about how you should give commands to your dog. In the last post I discussed the one direction one command principle. Today we will take that a little bit further.

Dutch Shepherd guarding her people while they workout

Dutch Shepherd guarding her people while they workout

The command should be issued once, in a calm and confident voice. “Scout, Sit.” I used to just look at her and say “sit” but I have since rethought that after working Copper, our lovable Golden Retriever, and Scout at the same time. It was a mess when both attempted to obey a command issued to the other dog. It’s still a work in progress but it seems that they are starting to understand to wait until they hear their name issued with the command.

Volume. Volume of the command is interesting and depends on context. Out in public, even though I am moving with a dog and stick out like a sore thumb I try to be as inconspicuous as possible. That means my commands are for me and my dog alone to hear. Quietly, “Scout, leave it. Good leave it. Scout heel. Good heel.” All the while, no one around us is any wiser. But training in a high energy environment with barking dutchies and maligators (or Belgian Malinois for those of you that haven’t heard that yet) requires a different set of vocals. Everyone is ramped up, including both handlers and their dogs so a more focused and intense vocal is required to punch through those distractions. When your volume increases, its important not to let the pitch of your voice increase as well. You want to use your diaphragm to push that command out. My wife calls it my quarterback voice. Its loud, its clear, and it focused so punches through the distance so your canine partner can hear it.

Its interesting how many people use their “quarterback voice” to issue a command but after the dog complies, the handler changes the tone for the praise. ¬†The same intensity should be used both for the command and the praise after you dog complies.

One Command, One Direction. Use a calm confident voice with a volume and intensity for the situation at hand.

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