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  • Richard Chan

When your voice becomes background music...

In dog training, our voice and our body movement can be really powerful. They can be used to communicate a wide spectrum of important messages to our dogs. However, we can make these two valuable communication channels meaningless if we turn them into background music. If we are constantly talking to our dog in one tone of voice, say, a very high pitch baby praising tone, our voice will lose its meaning because that is how we always talk to our dogs. If we are always moving around frantically as we talk to our dogs with high pitch voice, then our big movement can also lose its meaning because from the dog’s point of view, that is how we move all the time. Because there is no contrast, because everything becomes so predictable, they are degraded to background music that the dog will not become too excited about. You can say “good job” to your dog with a very high pitch voice thinking it must make your dog feeling really encouraged but if that tone of voice is how you always talk to your dog, he probably won’t really feel too special about it. Same with saying “no”. If you always yell and scream at your dog, your “no” can lose its meaning too. A typical response l have heard from owners many times is “when l say no, my dog looks really guilty, but then he will do it again.” If our voice and our body language are both meaningless to our dogs, then it should not surprise us that our dogs don’t pay much attention to us in public or under distractions. When we praise a dog, we can use many levels of energy with a variety of tone of voice, body movement, emotion... so there will always be a contrast to denote the specific meaning we want to convey based on what the dog has done. When we are not praising our dog, we should not use the same tone as if we are praising him as that would make the praising tone less meaningful. You can praise very calmly, and you can praise very excitedly, and everything in between. You can also interact neutrally when you are not praising or correcting. When you energy level has a wide range and it actually makes sense to the dog (since it is paired with the message you want to convey), your dog will learn to pay close attention to your every word and every move. Everything that you do will then become much more relevant to your dog. If you talk to your dog non stop, your voice will become background music. Your dog will tune you out just like how people would when they are with someone who keeps repeating the same thing over and over again all day long. When your voice is devalued to background music, it is much harder for you to get your dog’s undivided attention, because your dog is used to tune your voice out. Please make yourself relevant by being mindful of how and when you talk to your dog. Make your words count by not always talking and not always talking in the same tone to your dog. Hope this helps. Thank you.


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