Sit? or Sit! -- The Case for Intonation When Speaking to Your Dog
by Robin MacFarlane
"Sit." How you say it matters!All of us talk to our dogs. There are times we probably talk way more than we need to, and there are certainly times we speak in ways that have little to no real meaning for our dogs.
I'm guilty of carrying on long conversations with my pack. Acting as if they comprehend all the banter when in fact, I know it is mostly just a babbling noise to them.
I suspect many of us are guilty of greeting our dogs and having an extended dialogue similar to this:
"Hi Sweetie! Did you have a good day today? Boy, I'm glad to be home! Are you excited we can go for a walk now? Where's your leash? Oh, yes, here it is. Great! Okay, let me get my shoes on. Now where are the poop bags? Okay, wait a minute, wait a minute, hang on (because the dog is now jumping around and excited to go out the door). Yes, we're going. Let me clip this leash on. Hold still (more wiggling, jumping and whining). I said please hold still! Come here. Would you just wait a minute? Ugh. Sit!"
Your dog then sits, you clip on the leash, and head out the door for your walk in a slightly flustered state of mind.
But whose fault was it when that bit of chaos ensued?
We know that our dogs really didn't understand that entire series of words. They likely picked up on a few of the key ones, such as "walk" and "leash" and "sit." The rest of the words were just noise, but the intonation or pitch that we used fueled the situation and created the excited, wiggly animal we then tried to corral and get a leash on. When we finally used a known word with an inflection that seemed imperative, the dog did exactly as directed. :-)
Intonation has a significant impact on our dogs. How we say things is as important, perhaps more important, than what we say.
When we want excitement we can easily get it by using a higher pitch tone of voice. Higher pitch is typically accompanied by a slightly faster cadence of the words, and often by body language that has more movement involved. It is very, very easy for a dog to get excited by this type of behavior.
If you consider the fact that dogs are predatory animals, think about what happens when they hunt? If the prey squeaks, squeals, and then runs, what happens next? Adrenalin kicks in and game on!
If the animal they stalk turns and gives a low pitch vocalization accompanied by stiff posturing and stillness, the dog just might reconsider their intentions.
Dogs have an innate understanding of pitch, and we can learn to use it to our advantage when communicating.
A higher pitch tone of voice can be used to generate excitement. You might want this when playing with your dog, encouraging him to try something that seems a bit intimidating, or motivating the dog to continue on when fatigue is setting in.
A lower pitch tends to influence a sense of imperativeness. This is why it is suggested that most obedience commands be giving in a lower pitch. Particularly commands that direct a dog to stop motion. For words like "sit," "down," "whoa," "off," "out," and "quiet," the last thing we want to do is use a sing-song voice that implies a question mark at the end of the word. Sit? Drop-it? Be Quiet?
A lyrical vocal quality does not imply leadership or imperativeness.
It works best to use a neutral or slightly lower pitch with commands that are intended to get your dog to slow down, stop, or do something urgent. By comparison, you can ramp up the excitement and pitch when you want to increase adrenaline and enthusiasm.
Developing clarity in how we say things means as much as the words themselves.
The usefulness of vocal intonation extends beyond our canine friends. When you find yourself in a leadership role, whether it is with canines or people, pay attention to how you're using your vocal range. You might be surprised to see how much more cooperation you get when you learn how to fluctuate pitch and cadence to influence behavior.
Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.
FREE or only a penny with the following collars:
Delta XC, Delta SPORT XC
Dogtra IQ Plus
and several more...
Here's Why You Should Train Your DogDoes Your Dog Know her Place?Teaching a Recall? Start Slow and Make the Dog SuccessfulTeaching the Down CommandHouse Manners"Pay Me!"How to Strengthen Your Dog's Understanding of "Stay"How Long Does My Dog have to Wear the E-Collar?Consistency Without an E-collarSkills Every Puppy Should LearnDogs and Doorbells -- Oh My!Stop Your Dog from Bolting to the Door!Use Food Lures to Shape Your Puppies Introduction to Sit, Stand and DownPuppy Training 101: Play Biting ProblemTeaching Your Puppy to "Kennel Up"Dog Tricks: How to Teach Your Dog to Walk BackwardsWant a Standing Ovation? Teach Your Dog to "Take A Bow!"Want Your Dog to Come to You? Try Moving Away from Him."Catch me if you can!"Tired of Fido Stealing Your Snacks?E-Collar, Leash, Treats, Toy, and the Dog. How to Manage it All!Dog Tricks: Teaching Your Dog to DanceBefore You Expect a Dog to Stay on a Place, Teach Him to get on Willingly.Adding E-Collar Prompting to your Place CommandImpulse Control Games are a Time Well Spent Playing with your Dog!Juggling All Your Training Equipment?
Watch Ecollar Training VideosProper Fit of E-CollarIs Your Dog Collar Wise?"How long does my dog have to wear the collar?"Pressure NecrosisUsing Treats in TrainingCan I Use an E-Collar on My Small Dog?I Need a Shock Collar!Dog Training: Keeping it Real: Training Your Dog Should be EasyWhy Would I Want to Use an E-Collar on My Dog?A Tired Dog is a Good DogThree Things You Must Know to Have a Reliably Trained DogAre Remote Collars Punishment, Negative Reinforcement, or Motivators?The Best Way to Rescue a DogIt is More than Just Pushing a Button: Part OneWhat About the Leash?Tennis Ball, Tug or Cookie? What do Rewards Have to do with Good Training?The More Important Tool: Part 4 of "It Is More Than Just Pushing a Button."Do You Need Impeccable Timing in Order to Use a Remote Collar?What Does Your Dog's Future Look Like?6 Essential Things to Teach to Have a Good DogThe Top 3 Reasons Your Remote Collar Doesn't Seem to be WorkingHow Long Does It Take to Train My Dog?Put a Plan Into Motion for Dealing With Your Dog's Behavior Problems!Why are You Grateful for Your Dog?Are You Struggling to Get Your Dog to Stay? Try This.There are Only 3 Levels on a Remote Training Collar?The One Thing You Must Know if You Want to Train with an E-CollarHow to Help Your Dog Understand What You WantPhotos: One Great Reason to Teach a Place Command to Your DogNew Puppy TipsSit? or Sit! -- The Case for Intonation When Speaking to Your DogNumber of CommandsSo Your Dog Knows Sit. Now What?20 Reasons to Teach a Place CommandE-Collar Use: Training vs. EnforcingKnow How to Train a Dog, Know How to Use a Remote Collar?5 Ways to Enhance Feeding Time"But my dog doesn't like it."Outwit Your Dogs if You Want Better BehaviorWeaning Off E-Stim: Tap, Tell or HelpProofing: How to Help Your Dog Really "Get It."Should Your Dog Sleep on the Bed With You?Human Body LanguageGood Health: The Missing Link for a Happy and Well-Adjusted Dog?Are You the Center of Your Dog's World?E-Collar Training: Be Sure to Do This Before You Go Off LeashWhat Behavior are You Rewarding the Most?The Importance of Routine Nail Trims for Your DogWhen is the Right Time to Start Training My Dog?Is it Important that a Dog Learn to Heel?3 Things to do Right Now to Avoid Separation Issues with Your DogTraining Your Dog to Stop BarkingHow to Use a No Bark Collar