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23 September 2014 by Grace on Living with dogs

How to Speak Dog – From a DoggyDoc Power User

*Here's what most likely happened the first time you tried try to Speak Dog *

“Sit, sit, sit, SIT, SIT, SIT… I SAID, ‘SIT”…. Please sit. Come on sit. Sit, sit, sit, …”

I’m sure you’ve all heard this type of interaction. I know many of us have even been guilty of it. Guess what? Dogs don’t speak English; they don’t speak German or Japanese either. I know you are probably sitting there thinking to yourself, “My dog does. When I tell him to sit, he sits.”

Well, I hate to be a Debbie Downer but your dog still doesn’t speak English. What your dog does know is the cue for “sit”. Cues are words that describe the behaviors that you ask of your dog (sit, down, come, etc.). Just because you say a cue to your dog, does not mean that he will understand what you want him to do. With that said, it is extremely important to not confuse your dog and have him ignore you when you talk to him; if you use a cue and your dog does not know the behavior, then the word will simply lose meaning. Avoid using cues until he has a clear understanding of what the word means.

Rewarding the behaviors you want is the best way to see those behaviors repeated. When working with your dog, have a bag of treats ready. Do you want to add the “sit” cue to your dog’s language database? Training your dog to sit is simple. Either on or off leash,
allow your dog to walk around. Wait for it… Sitting is a common default behavior for dogs, so it probably won’t take long for his butt to hit the ground. As soon as it does, give him a treat. Mark that behavior with a click or a “yep”. If your dog is taking too
long to sit, you can use a treat to lure him into position. Simply place the treat in your fingers and move your hand from your dog’s nose straight up in the air. Your dog’s nose will follow the treat upward and his butt will be on the ground and you will reward him.

As your dog repeats the sit-behavior, reward him each time. Now add the cue: “Sit”.

Once his butt hits the ground, you give him a treat. Now repeat. Before long, you and your dog will be speaking the same language.

-Grace

Thank you to one of our special DoggyDoc Power Users, Grace who subimitted this article for our blog.

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