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Watch Your Words

  • Heidi

Setting the Tone for Positive Dog Training

When you think about dog training, do you approach it as a “command” and “response” exercise? It’s a natural approach, and there are examples of it everywhere. However, there could be a different way that yields better results.

A lot has changed with dog training in recent years as experts have learned more about dog behavior. In fact, many people have left dominance training behind in favor of force-free methods geared toward building a strong bond with your dog throughout the process. And it’s easier than you think – it starts with incorporating positive interactions that build trust.

If you’re thinking, “We already do that,” then, Bravo! You’re already one step ahead of us. But do you still think of your training requests as commands? Or do you teach your dog cues?

Teaching “commands” and “cues” may seem one and the same. However, people often use a harsher tone when commanding their dog to perform a certain behavior. This approach also leads people to consider their dog’s response as “good” or “bad.”

Approaching your training session with cues can completely turn them on their head. Why?

The word alone creates a mindset where you invite your dog to perform the behavior. In turn, it keeps the handler more relaxed and gentle, which creates a setting that fosters a positive response.

Other words that can derail a positive mindset during training include:

  • Breaking, like “housebreaking”: implies force rather than teaching desirable habits
  • Obedience: suggests submission to authority instead of willing behaviors
  • Make: evokes force, not encouragement

Similarly, referring to your dog as an “it” makes it seem as though you don’t acknowledge they’re a living, sentient creature. 

And if your dog doesn’t respond as expected during training, they’re not stupid, disobedient, or stubborn.

Those negative adjectives put the blame on your dog when there’s a reason behind their response. Like, maybe they didn’t understand or hear your request. Or they could be stressed, afraid, or in pain.

Simply changing the words you use while training can change the entire tone of the session – and that can add up to big results and a stronger bond with your dog.

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