Skip to content

4 Reasons Why What You Say To Your Dog (And How You Say It) Matters

Hands up if you chat to your dog? We definitely do here at Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear. They’re our best friends, after all, and there’s nothing like a kind, listening ear after a long day.

Talking to your dog, even if it’s just about the weather, can be soothing for both of you. However, it’s important to be mindful of the language you use, and how you use it when you’re training.

It’s easy to forget that dogs don’t understand words like we do, and expecting them to have a complex grasp of language can hinder training efforts.

Here are four reasons why what you say to your dog (and how you say it) matters…

1.     ‘No’ can be over-used and ineffective

When your dog does, or is about to do, something undesirable, the first word out of lots of owners’ mouths is ‘no’. It often happens without even thinking about it, which is totally understandable. However, ‘no’ is one of the most over-used but least effective words in your training toolkit.

‘No’ does not teach your dog what they should be doing, only that they’ve done something bad.

So what can you do instead? Be more conscious of using the word ‘no’ and use other phrases instead that won’t slip out of your mouth quite so easily.

Also, it’s important to back up any agility or sports training with obedience training so that your dog understands commands like ‘sit’ and ‘leave it’. Of course, you should always keep training positive (read our blog on the importance of positive reinforcement for more or this).

2.     The way their name is used makes a difference

Your dog’s name is likely the first word they learned, and it is an powerful one! The key thing here is to aim to only use their name in a positive way, so not to shout at them or tell them off using it. The more of a positive association your dog develops with their name, the better. It’s part of the bond and trust you share.

The other important thing to remember about using their name during training is to follow it with a clear command. Saying their name should attract their attention, your command should tell them what to do next. Being able to do this successfully can take time, but be patient. It’s worth it!

3.     Repeated words become meaningless

When you’re training a new behaviour, it can be tempting to repeat a word when your dog doesn’t understand – or act on it – the first time you say it. However, repeating words doesn’t magically teach an understanding of what your dog is supposed to do. In fact, repeating it can add extra confusion.

With positive reinforcement methods as your foundation, say a command once. If your dog responds well within around 20 seconds or so, offer a reward (a treat or a game with their favourite Tug-E-Nuff training toy). If they don’t, walk away. When your dog approaches you (which they will if you’re carrying treats or a toy), repeat the process.

4.     Your dog senses your tone

It’s not just what you say during your training sessions with your dog, it’s how you say it. Dogs are extremely well-tuned to the tone of your voice, so use it to your advantage. There’s lots of research on this, but most experts agree a higher pitch is best-suited to praise and encouragement, while a lower, firmer tone is better for giving commands.

Have you noticed the different the tone you use can make with your dog? How do you use language positively in your training? Share your thoughts in the comments or come and tell us on our Facebook page.


Human-dog bond basics - why it matters and how to boost it

Make your dog's safety a priority - teach the emergency stop

3 reasons your dog ignores recall (and how to stop it!)


Previous article Five Signs Your Dog Would Be Perfect For Flyball