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."