This page on Command Training is part of the Advanced Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network

Comprehensive Behavioral Conditioning for Dogs
Section Two of the Advanced Course

Command Training
Page Two of an eleven-page section

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Developing Your Command Voice

One of the best ways to let your dog know that you have shifted into command mode is to speak to him in a special tone of voice whenever you issue a command, one that is markedly different from your normal speaking voice.

Therefore, you will need to develop a command voice that is unique in its tone and intensity, and it should be a manner of speaking that your dog never hears you use, other than when you are commanding him or another dog.

I command my dogs using a tone of voice that is reminiscent of a noncommissioned military officer issuing orders to his troops. That voice works well for me because it is so totally different from the way that I normally speak that it lets my dogs know instantly that I have been transformed back into that take charge person whose instructions must always be followed.

Of course, ordering your dog around in that brusque fashion may shock some of the people who witness it who are not in the know, but you can work it so that it won't bother your dog in the least. I'll say more about that a bit later on.

Early on in the training process, after you have issued your dog a command and he has obeyed - perhaps with the assistance of your guiding hands - you can follow your harsh sounding command by immediately following it with words of reassurance. For example, you may command your dog sounding like a drill sergeant: Fido - Sit! Then, immediately after he sits, while he is waiting for you to issue the release, you can speak soothing words of reassurance in your most pleasing tone of voice: "Oh good dog! Good dog. You are soooo good!"

That says to your dog, "I'm still me and I still love you. These stern commands I am giving you are all just part of this obedience game that we're learning together." In that way, any fear or anxiety that might have been generated by you ordering him around in this new fashion can be removed. As a result your dog will soon come to perceive your stern command demeanor as being just a colorful bit of pageantry, in the compellingly ritualized process of obedience training.

In that way you can reassure your dog. But at the same time, it will not be lost on him that there is something very serious about this new game.

Of course, any distinctly unique tone of voice that you use consistently will suffice. However, there could well be an advantage to using a tone that is stern in character because that conveys a larger message that says, This may be a game of sorts, but it is not just some silly game, this is important, and compliance is not optional.

The Attention Getter

When the time comes that you need to direct your dog, it is essential that you first get his attention and alert him to the fact that you are about to issue a command. You can best do that by calling his name in a proper command voice, just an instant before you issue the command. As in: Fido - sit!

All commands, then, should begin with you calling your dog's name in your distinctive command voice.

The attention getter is, in effect, a discriminative cue that lets your dog know that the contingences have just shifted as an alternative set of rules have suddenly come into play.

It should come as no surprise, then, that when a well trained dog's name is called by his master in a proper command voice, you will see the animal immediately bring a halt to his current activity as he instantly looks up from whatever he is doing, and redirects his complete attention to the command that he knows is about to follow. If your dog responds sluggishly to having his name called in the command tone, you'll know he has a ways to go yet.

To Command Two or More Dogs at the Same Time

If you have more than one dog, there will be times when you will want only one of the animals to obey a given order, and there will be other occasions when you will want to give the same command to the entire bunch, all at once.

The best way to handle the problem is to vary your attention getter, depending on whether you want only one particular dog to obey a given command, or whether you want the whole gang to join in.

That means that each of your dogs will need to learn to respond to both the attention-getting prefix of his name: Fido - Sit. as well as to the group attention-getting prefix of Dogs: Dogs - Sit.

For that reason, if you want to train your dogs to respond as a group, as well as individually, then, when training each of them, you will need to alternate between the two prefixes, sometimes using one and sometimes using the other, as you work through the process of teaching all of your dogs to respond to both.

For obvious reasons, you should never use the group prefix of Dogs to command only one canine member of the group, if there are other dogs present. Indeed, you should never use the group attention getter in the presence of more than one dog unless you are prepared to force all the dogs present to obey the command that follows.

Therefore, when teaching an individual dog that he is also supposed to respond to all group commands, make it a point to teach him to respond to the group prefix out of the presence of the other dogs. Indeed, you should never use the group prefix unless you are prepared to ensure that all the dogs present comply.

The process of teaching all of your dogs to simultaneously obey every group command may require that you learn how to double team your dogs, and find someone to help you do it.

The Nine Essential Commands and How to Verbalize Them Properly

This website will tell you how to teach your dog to obey nine different commands. They are as follows:

  1. Fido - Sit
  2. Fido - Down
  3. Fido - Stand
  4. Fido - Come
  5. Fido - No
  6. Fido - Stay
  7. Fido - Heel
  8. Fido - Okay
  9. Fido - Let's go

Each command consists of only two or three words. You should begin by calling your dog's name and making sure that you have his attention. Then, you should pause for just an instant before you add the second part of the command, in which you specify exactly what he is to do. So you call your dog's name and you follow it a heartbeat later with the one or two word command, and that's it.

When commanding your dog, it is essential that you do not say anything else. Also, as a general rule, you should not give the same command a second time as a means of prompting compliance. Rather, you should say it just once and, then, unless your dog executes the command almost instantly, you should gently put your hands on the animal and, by moving him into position, make sure that he assumes the correct posture. Thus, there should seldom be a need for you to repeat yourself, since your next step after issuing the command will usually be to see to it that the order is executed. A lot of repeating yourself and throwing in extra words can only serve to confound the learning process.

Remember the rule, then. If you say to your dog, "Come on Fluffy, sit down," that is not a command. That is a request that your dog is free to ignore.

If you are going to command your dog, then, command your dog by speaking the correct words in the requisite manner! Don't make requests and then expect them to be followed as though they were orders properly dispensed.

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This page on Command Training is part of the Advanced Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network