dog commands

Three words to your dog that reveal the wrong attitude

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“She’s stubborn. She doesn’t obey my commands.”

When I hear someone talking about their dog like this, I know just what to expect when I visit them.

There will be a lot of shouting, in an increasingly stern and abrupt voice. There will be finger-wagging, the owner will bend over the dog and stare at him. And the dog will either fly around getting more and more excited (read “stressed”) or shut down completely and opt out. The owner will think his dog is complying, but this is what’s known as Learned Helplessness - “I can’t do anything about this so I’ll give up”. There will be much frustration all round.

This has come about not because the owner is nasty or domineering, but because of how they think they need to act with their dog. 

Old sins have long shadows!

They seem to have got the idea that you have to be firm, authoritarian, dominant - whatever you like to call it - with a dog. While they accept that this is not going to work with people, they blindly accept that this is what you do with dogs. It’s true that dogs - all animals - had a hard time in the past, and still do in many cultures. They were regarded as second-class beings - some people even believe they don’t feel pain as we do. 

These people should open their eyes and look around them! Have they not seen Guide Dogs leading their blind owners safely past street hazards? Assistance Dogs opening washing machines and putting the clothes into a basket? Have they not seen a dog telling his deaf owner that there’s someone at the door? (Yes, mine tell me that there’s someone at the door, but because they’re anxious about the invasion, not because they’ve been trained to quietly indicate to me!)

Then what about the astonishing displays of Dancing with Dogs, where the dog learns an extended routine of actions to perform in harmony with its owner? Here’s a superb example.

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If you see the enthusiasm and joy expressed in that video (do watch it, it's not long and you'll be enchanted), and in the dogs who excel at Agility and Flyball, you’ll realise that this can’t come from being nagged or punished. It’s pure enjoyment, harnessed.

Even the police - who used to claim they had to be hard on their dogs to be confident that they’d protect them - are now finding that working with the dog rather than against him is infinitely more successful and rewarding for both dog and officer.

We don’t treat children, spouses, or employees like this any more, so why do it to our dogs?

Lazy habits and popular tv

There has been so much change in the way we live over the last century. But it seems that animal care and education lag behind the general trend - by a good number of years.

Doing things a certain way, unquestioningly, because that’s how our parents did it, is not going to move us forward. That thinking would have kept us in caves! We have to take the learning available to us and implement it in our lives. So we must question what we are told to do. This is one of the valuable aspects of the teenage years - question, reject, question, reject. Of course you have to replace what you’ve rejected with something better!

And this would mean being picky about what you watch on television. Just because it’s printed in the paper or broadcast on the screen does not mean it’s right! There are plenty of people making good money from programmes indicating that a sharp, quick, fix is what’s needed to solve all dog behaviour problems. If you still think that beating a child for a minor transgression is ok, then you probably believe this twaddle. 

But most of the people I work with are good, kind, people, who wouldn’t dream of abusing their children. Yet somehow they have allowed this dissonant belief - that animals are different and need to be abused to be acceptable - to take root in their heads. 

I recently saw video of one of those tv personality, non-qualified, self-styled “dog trainers” giving a course on teamwork in the workplace. He used his unpleasant practices on their dogs - leaning over them and shouting, sneering, jabbing them, yanking their lead - to demonstrate. I was appalled that the owners were accepting all this! Suppose they were to go back to their office and shout at their staff, belittle them, jab them in the ribs, pull and push them around?! I feel sure this is not something they would countenance - and if they did they’d soon be advertising for more staff! - yet they swallowed all this because this guy had given himself a funny title and been on television.

"My dog is stubborn" No he's not! Find out what really motivates him

"My dog is stubborn" No he's not! Find out what really motivates him

People seem to lose their critical faculties when dealing with their dogs!

Dogs are not “stubborn” 

Dogs are simple souls who try to please. They have fears and anxieties just as we do. They do what works. 

Your puppy who sits down on the pavement and refuses to move is not being stubborn. 

She’s just afraid.

If you’re not sure whether you’re heading into a swamp or a quicksand, sitting still and pondering is a good survival tactic. And if you’ve only been on the planet a few weeks, sitting still and waiting for Mum to guide you is also a good move.

So if you find yourself describing your little puppy as “stubborn”, “obstinate”, “wilful”, and the rest, try substituting the words “fearful”, “anxious”, “eight weeks old” into what you just said and see if that fits better. You’ll surely treat the situation differently once you look at it differently.

Working with someone is so much more pleasant - and effective - than imposing your will on them. Giving the dog a choice (heavily loading the odds in your favour!) will get the result you want without all the expenditure of effort involved in shouting, repeating yourself, and trying to sound masterful.

Dogs do not arrive with us with a perfect grasp of English, or any understanding of our wavy arm gestures. Before you can expect her to respond to what you’re saying, you need to teach your dog what it is you want. Then you can concentrate on the good things your dog does, and ignore the rest. 

What you focus on is what you get.

If you tell a child he’s a cheat and a liar, that’s what he’ll be. 

Turn your focus to what you do want, rather than what you don’t want. 

Catch your dog doing something you do like - and be very excited about it! Once I’d understood this, life with my dogs became a breeze. Most things I don’t appreciate are ignored - no point in stressing about something that is over.

So if shouting “commands” at your dog is not working, try treating your dog as you would a shy two-year-old, and quietly ask her for what you want. You may be astonished at the response you get!


P.S. You’ll have worked it out by now: those three words are “stubborn”, “obey”, and “command”. Banish them from your vocabulary!


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Zip it! And get a fast response from your dog

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Are you a chatterbox? 

“Fido, Fido, FIDO, come, c’m’ere, Fido, over here, FIDO COME HERE, (**** dog), F I D O !!

We’ve all heard a frustrated owner calling this in the park. And what’s Fido doing all this while? Probably carrying on just as he pleases. When the torrent of yelling subsides he’ll look round to check his owners are still there. And if they start walking away, he just may come.

But this is isn’t what you’re wanting, is it? We’d all love to have a dog who spins on a sixpence as soon as he hears his name, and powers back to us at tremendous speed. We want people to see that our dog loves and respects us, and we certainly want to be sure he doesn’t make a nuisance of himself.

So how can you change this?

Only say it once!

The first thing to do is to change what you’re doing. Then you can change what your dog is doing. 

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So when you say anything to your dog, you ONLY SAY IT ONCE. He gets one chance to get the reward from you. You have got a super high-value reward with you at all times, haven’t you? Sausage, or salami, hot dog - whatever your dog thinks is heavenly. If he ignores your ONE call, then the reward is gone. 

Ok, you’re saying, how is that going to get my dog back? Well, you start with this in the house - in an area where you have little distraction and you know that if he doesn’t respond you can go over to him. 

This isn’t a capitulation on your part. It’s expedient. We’re not looking at who’s the boss - that won’t make things any better. Dogs do not have a secret agenda to rule the world, your household, or you. Dogs do what works, and if it works - then that’s going to make you both happy.

So you say your dog’s name ONCE. He looks at you - YES! here’s your reward And as I explain elsewhere, a reward is anything your dog finds rewarding: food (top of the list), cuddles (fairly far down the list), game, dinner bowl, lead on for a walk, etc.

Dogs learn by repetition and patterning. So it’s a case of repeat, repeat, repeat. (But don’t repeat his name!) Just get into the habit of saying your dog’s name ONCE and rewarding his instant response. 

So say “Fido!” and zip it. Some people actually find it helps them to remember when they say something to their dog to put their hand over their mouth! Whatever works for you. 

I’ve heard some mothers complain that they call the family down to dinner and get “just coming” ten times before they all eventually appear at the table. If those mothers called the kids ONCE, then - after a suitable delay - tipped their dinner into the bin, I think the next day they’d start getting a faster response. 

What do you think?

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander (it works just the same with dogs)

Dog training, new puppy, puppy training, dog behavior | Get a sparkling fast recall from your dog! | FREE GUIDE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #puppytraining, #dogbehavior |

This is the same principle. When I say your name, there is a reward on offer. You don’t respond? Reward is gone. Over time (not necessarily a very long time, either), your dog will leap to attention when he hears his name. He doesn’t want to miss that treat!

Once you’ve got that working well indoors, you can start trying it outdoors - in a distraction-free zone to begin with - and in an area where you can go to your dog if he doesn’t come to you. When you go to him, you are not arriving like Thor firing thunderbolts. Rather you just get right up next to your dog and call him once from there. Then you reward him! Why? Because he responded to you!

This is not the whole recall fixed. This is the beginning. This is opening up the channel so that you can stop yelling and start communicating. For a thorough step-by-step program to develop a stunning recall, check out Here Boy! Step-by-step to a Stunning Recall from your Brilliant Family Dog

Want to really understand why your dog does what he does? And learn quickly how to change it?

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What do I do when it all goes wrong?

The simple answer to this is: go back to the drawing board and start in the house (where your dog cannot run off) and - critically - make it fun for your dog. If the sound of your dog’s name always means fun and games, why would he not come? 

You’ll need to ditch any ideas you may have had about being the boss, expecting instant obedience, punishing defiance, and so on. If you ask your partner or child to fetch something for you, do you expect them to leap instantly from their chair, abandon what they’re doing, and rush to obey? No! Much more likely you’ll get “In a minute,” or a slower heave out of the armchair. This is fine. This is normal. This is what we expect (and accept) from our housemates. Why should we expect something totally different from our dog?

By the way, ONLY SAY IT ONCE works with anything you say to your dog. So no more “Sit, sit sit, siddown, I said sit”, “Leave it, put it down, leave it, LEAVE IT!” and so on. This is a habit you’ll have to change in yourself before you can expect any change in your dog. For your dog to change - you have to change. So, discipline your mouth, be ready to cover it with your hand as soon as you’ve uttered, and practice saying things only once then zip it!

Focus on this for just five days this week. Every single time you address your dog, you’ll say something ONCE then zip it. See how soon the turning point arrives and your dog starts listening to you!


You can comment below and tell me when it happened for you.



Meanwhile, get your free download: Nine Rules for a Perfect Recall

9 Rules for a Perfect Recall

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9 Rules for a Perfect Recall
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