Dog Training best Verbal Tone Voice Command Canine

We all fantasize about communicating with our pets in a way that’s clear and effective. Over the past seventeen years of teaching obedience and agility classes, the most common myth I’ve witnessed is that my students believe their dogs understand vocabulary, when in fact the dogs are responding to a combination of physical cues (body language) and verbal intonation.

In reality, our tone of voice is far more meaningful to dogs than the specific vocabulary we are using. Even an untrained dog or young puppy can respond quite dramatically to different tones. Most dog owners don’t need to be told, our dogs are absolute geniuses when it comes to detecting our moods and emotions. When we verbally express ourselves, our tone of voice is often a reflection of how we’re feeling inside, whether it’s happy, upset or impatient… the dogs pick up on it immediately, and respond.

Knowing how sensitive canines are to tone of voice, you can actually use your tone to influence your dog’s behaviour. Here is a guide to some of the more common tones and how to use them effectively with dogs of various temperaments.

Best Overall Tone = Firm and Calm
Overall, a firm and calm tone is the one you should use most often when training your dog. You want to encourage your dog be in a calm state of mind.  Repeat key words or commands in a firm, level tone, never allowing negative emotions like frustration or anger to enter your voice. If you naturally have a high or squeaky voice, try to lower your tone by an octave or two. A loud, high-pitched voice can tend to over-stimulate some dogs, especially if your dog is hyper or easily excitable. 

A calm tone is especially essential when patterning new behaviours or introducing a new command to your dog.  Make sure the intonation in your words is going down at the end, so your words sound like a statement. “Sit.”  You should NOT be asking your commands like a question—“Sit? Sit? Sit?”  This is a very common error with new handlers.

Shy, Submissive Dog  = Quietly Encouraging Tone
With dogs that have a shy, fearful or submissive temperament, a quietly encouraging tone can really help to boost their confidence level. You don’t need to be overly enthusiastic or loud with your praise…  just gentle and consistent encouragement is the best.

Wild, over-the-top praise can actually have a reverse effect with a submissive dog’s personality—they will often shut down or try to flee.

Dominant or Reactive Dog = Low, Assertive Tone
With dogs that have a very dominant personality, or tend to be highly reactive around other dogs or people, practice using a very firm and assertive tone.  Don’t shout or scream your commands—just raise the insistence level in your voice, and keep the tone of your voice very low. Don’t just “say it like you mean it”—Mean it! With dominant dogs, you always must be prepared to follow through with your verbal commands. Dominant dogs love to test their leaders.

Unwanted Behavior = Sharp, Loud, Short!
If you catch your dog in the middle of some unwanted behaviour like digging up a rose bush, or peeing on the carpet, you need to make a loud, sharp noise that will immediately break the behaviour and make the dog look at you. I use a sharp “HEY!” or “AH!” with a simultaneous single clap of my hands. Most dogs stop to look at you when they hear this.

Your Dog’s Name = Positive Tone

Lastly, never use your dog’s name with a negative or harsh tone of voice.  Saying your dog’s name is the quickest technique to get your dog to look at you, in times you need immediate eye contact. Keep it a highly positive thing!