are emotional. They learn things through the changes that take place in
their emotional states. One of the most important tools you have as a trainer or
owner, in terms of applying the proper emotion to a training
situation, is how you use your voice.
Years ago I was working with a great Dane named Achille (Ah-sheel).
His owners said he was nervous about meeting people on the streets of
New York. He was a beautiful dog and it wasn’t uncommon for people to
stop and stare and want to say hello. Achille didn’t like this. He
would bark nervously at strangers:
“Ruff! Stay away!”
job was to fix this. So on each of our training walks I took along a
pocketful of treats. And every time someone commented on how handsome
he was, etc., I would thank them then explain what I was trying to do
to help him, and would they mind showing him a treat and telling him to
Most people said yes. But once I'd given them the treat,
quiet a few were very stern about how they gave the command, which
caused Achille to bark at them. Some, though, gave the command in a
very pleasant tone of voice, and when they had a different tone,
Achille sat quickly and was very happy to do so. So I changed tactics:
once they agreed to help out, instead of asking them to “tell” Achille to sit, I always phrased it thusly: “Could you show him a treat and then ask him
to sit?” This almost always changed the way they interacted with the
dog, and as a result he learned not to be so afraid of strangers.
was in a similar situation the other day. A woman who lives down the
hall from me recently adopted a young Lab/pit bull mix named Diva, and
I ran into her at the dog run. At one point Diva was showing an avid
interest in the far corner of the dog run where the garbage bags, etc.,
are stored in a large industrial-plastic type container, which sits
pushed up against the fence. Diva was fascinated with it, smelling all
around the container, even pushing herself between it and the fence.
(My feeling was that it was a popular spot for rats to hang out at
Diva’s owner was saying, “No, stop that,” and trying to
pull her away from those fascinating smells. So I suggested that we
just walk away instead.
Once we were a good distance away, Diva was torn between following us and continuing with what her nose was telling her to do.
overcome this final bit of resistance, I told Diva's new mommy to
praise her dog. She did, but her voice was flat and held no excitement
or emotion. Then I praised Diva, and the dog got a happy look
in her eyes, and immediately came running to me as if I were the most
interesting thing in the world at that moment. Once Diva’s owner heard
the difference in our voices, she was able to imitate the way I’d
praised her dog and it had the same effect.
So, since this isn’t
something that can be explained as easily in print, I’ve used my
Olympus Digital Recorder to give you a few samples of how to do it.
Just click on the link below: