Human Training Tip: Don’t be Afraid to Sound Silly

Human Training Tip: Don't be Afraid to Sound Silly

A Good Tip for Successful Dog Training?
Learn from your canine companion:

Don’t be Afraid to Sound Silly.

{my story}
Growing up, I was the quiet serious girl in the back. I preferred to speak in monotone, and despite a good childhood, smiles or shows of emotion were also limited. I’ll be honest here: I was often called “Wednesday Addams.” In addition to my demeanour, the uncanny resemblance didn’t help. When I graduated high school, I immediately got a job to save up so that I could go to University. I secured a coveted retail job during a scarce economy, and soon found myself in a predicament. As a new hire, a register girl, I was to use the intercom throughout the day – and often. I was terrified of the intercom. The thought of hearing my voice projected loudly throughout a building the size of half a football field? Pure horror. At first, I took to leaving the register to whisper to my manager that he had a phone call. That method didn’t go over well. So, it had to happen, for the sake of my employment. I had no choice but to use the intercom, and to do so immediately. I was terrified, but I did it. I learned to speak in a clear cheerful voice that people could, and would want to hear. And guess what? I liked it. The experience gave me a lot of confidence. And a side bonus? Calling the abusive assistant manager for a “clean up on aisle 5” was very satisfying. I guess you really can’t take the Wedneday Addams out of me.

{people training}
Lesson? Sometimes getting over your fear of looking like a complete dork is worth the risk. And when you are working with a dog, this could not be more true. Often in training classes, I watch as owners struggle with their dogs. Suppose their dog is afraid of something. When the dog finally goes out on a limb and does what they are asked, what happens next? A celebration? No. Nothing happens – well, actually, the dog just gets asked to do something else right away in addition to the death-defying stunt they just accomplished. A quiet “good boy” really doesn’t cut it. And asking for more right away? How depressing… How is a dog supposed to learn what you want them to do, if they get nothing in return but more intimidating assignments? And people wonder “why their dog doesn’t get it!”

{human-dog communication}
When your dog encounters a personal road block, and gets past it, you need to acknowledge their victory in a way that they can clearly understand. I am sorry fellow shy people – but this means audible excitment. Yes – from you, from your vocal chords, from your body language. Express yourself to your dog. Your unfiltered joy is the one clean line of communication you have with your dog. They might generally understand what “good boy” means, but they might not get how important their achievement is to you, especially if you move on to something else right away. Training shouldn’t be a monotonous set of requests and punishments. Again, keep in mind that a lack of positive reinforcement can actually be taken as a punishment. This is not a situation exclusive to dogs. Think about your own work experiences. Doesn’t it deflate you when you accomplish something great, and all your boss does is ask for more right away? Try to put yourself in your dog’s position. They get excited when you do something they like. Isn’t it satisfying to see the look on your dog’s face when you make them happy? If dogs showed no emotion, would we feel the same way about them? When you do something that makes your dog happy, they clearly show you their joy and love. Offer the same in return. Most likely, your dog is being asked to restrain themselves and offer a controlled behaviour. If your dog offers you something that you as a human value (self-restraint), why not offer them something they value as a dog? (unfiltered joy).

{your tone}
With all this said, you don’t actually have to break glass with your shrieks, or leap out of your pants with crazed excitement. The kind of reward I am talking about is a “cross section” display of your joy. Let your emotion show. Make sure your tone of voice is different than the norm, and thatyour message is notable. Your voice should be confident and bursting with pride. You are giving your dog a blissful “thank you,” and marking their offering as memorably happy and good. The exact level of excitement should be determined based on what works for the individual dog. Some love a little personalized smiley happy party, whereas others might need a WOOHOO-PARTYTIME!!!! party. Miles likes himself a nice big par-tay.

{loose your inhibitions}
Don’t be afraid to look or sound silly for your best friend. Who is going to judge you, especially in a training class? The teacher? Fellow students? No way! So, that said, do whatever it takes. Focus on the bond you have with your dog, and let other anxieties melt away. If you ask your dog to be brave, be brave yourself. And see what happens. If I can do it, anyone can.

2 comments on Human Training Tip: Don’t be Afraid to Sound Silly

  • Danielle

    Great article! Our Puppy Kindergarten instructor says if you don't sound like a goof, you're not doing it right!

  • Emma (author)

    Thanks Danielle! Sounds like you have a great trainer.

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