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How to Talk to Your Dog—Like a Pro

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September 24, 2009

How to Talk to Your Dog—Like a Pro

By David DiBenedetto

Since Pritch arrived I’ve been lucky to spend some time around top trainers. And I’ve noticed that while they all do things slightly different, they do share a common trait—the way they use their voice. Sure, they’re all using the same vocal commands, but it’s the inflection and tone in the pros’ voices that has caught my attention. A command is stern and sharp, and it lets the dog know the trainer means business.

So it should have been no surprise to me that when re-reading parts of James Lamb Free’s Training Your Retreiver the other night I saw that he had come to the same conclusion 60 years ago. (So much for my reading comprehension.) At any rate, Free makes some excellent points about sounding like a dog trainer.

“Nearly all beginning trainers just sound too damn wishy-washy when they give a command. I don’t mean you should yell every time you speak to a dog. Certainly not. But you should always speak with plenty of firmness in your voice, and when necessary, even sternness. You should sound as though you mean it, and as though you expect instant obedience, as a matter of course. You’ll get it, if you can put this over in your tone."

Obviously, you can also “talk” to your gun dog with a whistle. And the same rules apply: When you give a blast. Blow like you mean it.

I’ll admit, I err on the side of being too laid back, or as Free would say, “wishy-washy.” Moving forward I’ll try to remember the following advice every time I give a command.

"Think of it this way. You’re not begging a dog to do something. You’re not requesting it. You’re not even asking. You’re telling him."

Comments (12)

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from Wags wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Dave,

Great advice, then and now. Same thing I tell my kids, "I'm really not asking you to do it, I'm TELLING you to."

Dude, you've got to get some weight training in your regimine. You're starting to look awfully feminine in that picture you posted above! And stay away from the strap T-shirts!!

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from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Wags,

LOL. I figured people were tired of seeing my ugly mug on this blog. Besides, my wife (pictured) can run Pritch like a pro...it's me who needs the work. -D

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from guncrazy74 wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I am lucky in my family all the wives always talk about how my brothers and I inherited our Dad's "daddy" voice so when we tell the kids to do something they know we are not fooling. I once had my son when he was three take off out the door as we were leaving a Mcdonalds and start to run into the parking lot I said stop loud and he did. When I turned around everyone in the place was frozen! LOL It was also useful in the military so as I went out the door I just said "carry on" and left. Wasn't till I started around pros that I got a laugh that they all were the same. LOL

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from Wags wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

That's your wife? Man, I don't know you, but you might have outkicked you're coverage if you catch my drift.

Those LL Bean Kangaroo Upland Boots she's sporting? They look close. I'm on my second pair. Best birdhunting boots.Period. (IMHO).

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from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

guncrazy74--That McDonalds story is a funny one.

Wags--I'd rather be lucky than good looking...Can't recall what exact model those boots are but I'm pretty sure they're LL Bean something or others. -D

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from kelmitch wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Great stuff Dave!

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from idahooutdoors wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

My lab has to believe you will "End" him before he will mind...always minds me (he tested me for alpha male a couple times and lost), but when he is around new people he sizes them up, and if they are not stern with him, he just figures he must rank higher in the pack and doesn't have to listen to them....he also has never seemed to realize that he is a dog and not a person, and I figure it would break his heart if I informed him now........

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from MLH wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

And don't forget to use their full or middle names, too.

Was walking with my dog, my girlfriend, and some neighbors. Some dogs started barking at Beau. He bolted to meet them. I bellowed his name and "Stand!" He stopped in his tracks. So did everyone else. The dogs stopped barking. Birds stopped singing. Squirrels flattened on the ground. Got everyone's attention. But have to keep a 175 pound rambunctious Newfy that looks like a black bear within limits.

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from Bryan01 wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I don't have a hunting dog, but from my experience with the family mutt, I have to agree. I have also noticed that it is easier to use this tone when the dog is in the process of being trained initially. After you've already taught it all that you intend to and a few years go by, it becomes easy to let things begin to slide a little bit and a small departure from the desired behaviour that previously would have brought a sharp rebuke may begin to cause nothing more than an indulgent shrug of the shoulders.

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from AKGomer wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Duh, it doesn't only work with dogs, folks!

-Sarge

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from Cgull wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Funny what a stern command can do.

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from shotgunlou wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

Yup! I know exactly what you mean. I've had my five year old lab/pit mix for 3 years longer than I've had my wife. Brew knows when I give an order that it is to be done right now. However when Megan tells Brew to do something she says it like its a request and then Brew always looks to me for confirmation that she does in fact have to follow the "suggestion" of "the other woman" in my life. Its pretty funny to me but really makes the wife angry. I keep telling her she has to say it like she means it and the dog will listen better. Its been two years though and nothing is different. I'm still laughing though so oh well.

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from guncrazy74 wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I am lucky in my family all the wives always talk about how my brothers and I inherited our Dad's "daddy" voice so when we tell the kids to do something they know we are not fooling. I once had my son when he was three take off out the door as we were leaving a Mcdonalds and start to run into the parking lot I said stop loud and he did. When I turned around everyone in the place was frozen! LOL It was also useful in the military so as I went out the door I just said "carry on" and left. Wasn't till I started around pros that I got a laugh that they all were the same. LOL

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Dave,

Great advice, then and now. Same thing I tell my kids, "I'm really not asking you to do it, I'm TELLING you to."

Dude, you've got to get some weight training in your regimine. You're starting to look awfully feminine in that picture you posted above! And stay away from the strap T-shirts!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Wags,

LOL. I figured people were tired of seeing my ugly mug on this blog. Besides, my wife (pictured) can run Pritch like a pro...it's me who needs the work. -D

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Wags wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

That's your wife? Man, I don't know you, but you might have outkicked you're coverage if you catch my drift.

Those LL Bean Kangaroo Upland Boots she's sporting? They look close. I'm on my second pair. Best birdhunting boots.Period. (IMHO).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

guncrazy74--That McDonalds story is a funny one.

Wags--I'd rather be lucky than good looking...Can't recall what exact model those boots are but I'm pretty sure they're LL Bean something or others. -D

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Great stuff Dave!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from idahooutdoors wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

My lab has to believe you will "End" him before he will mind...always minds me (he tested me for alpha male a couple times and lost), but when he is around new people he sizes them up, and if they are not stern with him, he just figures he must rank higher in the pack and doesn't have to listen to them....he also has never seemed to realize that he is a dog and not a person, and I figure it would break his heart if I informed him now........

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

And don't forget to use their full or middle names, too.

Was walking with my dog, my girlfriend, and some neighbors. Some dogs started barking at Beau. He bolted to meet them. I bellowed his name and "Stand!" He stopped in his tracks. So did everyone else. The dogs stopped barking. Birds stopped singing. Squirrels flattened on the ground. Got everyone's attention. But have to keep a 175 pound rambunctious Newfy that looks like a black bear within limits.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bryan01 wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I don't have a hunting dog, but from my experience with the family mutt, I have to agree. I have also noticed that it is easier to use this tone when the dog is in the process of being trained initially. After you've already taught it all that you intend to and a few years go by, it becomes easy to let things begin to slide a little bit and a small departure from the desired behaviour that previously would have brought a sharp rebuke may begin to cause nothing more than an indulgent shrug of the shoulders.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from AKGomer wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Duh, it doesn't only work with dogs, folks!

-Sarge

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cgull wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Funny what a stern command can do.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shotgunlou wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

Yup! I know exactly what you mean. I've had my five year old lab/pit mix for 3 years longer than I've had my wife. Brew knows when I give an order that it is to be done right now. However when Megan tells Brew to do something she says it like its a request and then Brew always looks to me for confirmation that she does in fact have to follow the "suggestion" of "the other woman" in my life. Its pretty funny to me but really makes the wife angry. I keep telling her she has to say it like she means it and the dog will listen better. Its been two years though and nothing is different. I'm still laughing though so oh well.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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