Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My East Coast, Tough Guy, dog training voice

I've found my dog training voice, sort of like how a writer finds their writers voice. Since I grew up in New Jersey it is a sort of "Hey you, I'm talking to you" East coast, tough guy vibe with a bit of an edge to it , along the lines of what you may have heard on a Soprano's TV show episode. I'm frequently in this mode when I have to convince a dog that is 2/3rd's my size to listen to me, and pay attention to me. With the dogs that are not quite so big or stubborn, I primarily use a crabby edgy tone to my voice that breaks through to them when giving commands, but doesn't scare them. How many times have I heard people talk to dogs in a non specific, flurry of words (without any specific energy behind them), kind of way that just sounds like so much mumbling to a dog. If you are specific, consistent and clear in terms of throwing your voice in an-I mean it- edgy way, like if your kid is about to get near a fire or something dangerous, you can get the dog's attention and respect. You are stopping them in their tracks with your voice and a command. You are basically communicating in tone first, that's what gets their attention.You are grabbing them with your voice. Tone with a consistent command will instill the behavior.To further grasp the concept I had a friend say negative things to her dog in a happy voice" Oh you're such a bad, naughty, dreadful dog" but all said in a happy tone, the dog wagged it's tail and just assumed she was happy and everything was great. The dog is listening to the tone, and reading your emotion and body language. In happy talk tone the dog thinks" oh things are good everyone's content" if you are talking to them in command tone they think" Oh I'm supposed to be focusing and doing something here" if you use the growly, deep, stop them in their tracks tone they think"oh I messed up" they stop and then you can re- direct them with a " come" and then praise, in happy talk tone. The dogs don't really understand words said without tone, tone gets their attention, gets them to think and key in, then the command tells them what to do.

The other observation I have about training comes from my initial introduction into true dog training by Barbara Woodhouse. Before watching the English Dog trainer at work in a video I used to think that training was sort of a mechanical, going through the motions, rote learning, repetitive act. In the program I saw, they asked Barbara Woodhouse why she was so good at dog training. She passed her hand lovingly over the dogs head and then answered"because I love them so much" This was eye opening to me. I made the connection that training is first about the loving bond you develop playing with the dog, caressing it, getting the dog to think you are the most wonderful exciting thing in it's life, and treating the dog like it's such a wonderful important part of your life. When you talk to a dog saying how cute and wonderful it is, and you mean it, most of the time you can see a beaming with pride or adoration reaction in them, for instance; a devoted look, tail wag, full body wiggle or a dancy little "I'm so cute" walk. If the dog is spacing out or not paying attention You might want to work on this bonding process. Also repeat the commands at various times of the day, in and outside of the house and then praise. A lot of people don't emphasize the happy praise enough. They seem to think the dog did what I wanted so I'll just say" good" and pat it on the head in a lackadaisical manner and that's enough. Well if you get the response you want that may be enough but if you want to have a dog pay more attention to you, you have to make it fun and exciting and up the emotional ante. Just some advice I've arrived at through reading training books, trial and error and experience, hope it helps those out there that need it. One of the books that helped me a lot in training dogs is
Good Owners Great Dogs

This is the only Mike Marino video I could find without cursing in it but you'll get an idea of the accent. He's one funny Comedian, a New Jersey born Italian with attitude. If you don't mind the cursing you can find more of him on Youtube

Here is my favorite dog trainer Barabara Woodhouse again for those who missed the previous post


  1. We got the bonding and happy praise part down down but still have to work on the tough guy voice. Our little guy is anything but timid, so I will take your advice and see if I can convince him who is in charge and remember to praise him when he does good.

    This has been a good week for the dog. He has played fetch the frisbee with us every morning after his walk, off the leash, all week without a hitch...we are so proud of him.

    Thanks for all the great advice!

  2. Oh Lorena! We so enjoyed Barbara Woodhouse! What a lady......... greaT :)

  3. Glad I could be of some help Mr. H. I realized I didn't answer your specific question about the age of the dog. I would say it depends on the dog as well. There can be a lot of variation in the breed. For instance I have a low energy Australian Cattle Dog while most are high energy.Without seeing the specific situation I tried to address problems that I often see people experiencing in general. Whether the dog is fixed or not, also plays a roll in terms of hormones entering the picture. I don't have much experience with dog's that aren't fixed. Soon after they become wards of the shelter they are sent off for spay and neuter which I have seen, helps to calm down the dogs and improve problematic behavior.Good Luck, the border collies are one of my favorite breeds, both smart and sensitive. I'll have a few more posts on the breed in the future,as I have some funny stories about ones that have shown up on my doorstep.Glad you had a good week with the pup.

  4. Hi Corinne, glad you like the Woodhouse video, she was a hoot as well as a great trainer and teacher. Her books are fantastic as well. Thanks for visiting