Dog Training: Tone and Volume Matter (Part 2 of 2)
Updated: Jul 18
Whether it's our dogs or children: are any of them really listening?
Imagine the typical American mom on Saturday morning. The children are watching cartoons. Mon comes into the living room and says, “kids, go clean your rooms”. As good American kids they are going to probably not even turn around but instead dismiss mom by stating, “yah yah mom, at the commercial”. When mom returns an hour later, the kids are still watching cartoons. Mom then raises her voice and repeats, “Kids, I said go clean your rooms”. The kids will most likely raise their voice and respond, “yes mom, at the commercial”. This could go on for hours. Then suddenly, the kids jump up and go and clean their rooms. This typically happens right before the big consequence. Right before mom goes into the hall closet, and takes out the wiffle bat and chases the kids around the house something happens. Maybe she starts getting loud by slamming cupboard doors in the kitchen. Maybe she gets quiet by going into her bedroom. Then when she comes out that hall closet is the first place she’s going to go. The same happens with dogs. You look over and see your dog is in the trash. You tell him “get out of the trash”. He barely bother’s even looking up. You repeat it, but this time louder. Your dog looks up, but keeps on trash diving. You stand up and yell, “get out of the trash”. He stops, has a longer pause as he survey’s the situation, and resumes his deep dive. Then you take your first step towards him and suddenly your dog is out of the trash, and laying in the living room where he claims he’s been the whole time!
Now imagine mom has a do over. Mom comes into the room the first time and calmly says “kids, go clean your room”. She waits one-and-a-half seconds and in a matter-of-fact tone says, "okay kids, bring me your cell phones, you’ve lost them for a month. Now go clean your rooms”. Naturally, they will start questioning that decision. Mom is only going to give them another one-and-a-half before she states, “okay kids, bring me your cell phones and Play Stations, you've lost them for a month as well. Now go clean your rooms”. Now the kids are wild, and clearly communicating their displeasure. Mom waits just another one-and-a-half seconds before she calmly announces “kids, now you need to bring me your cell phones, Play Stations and iPads. You've lost all of them for a month now go clean your rooms”. By the time she adds TV privileges to what has been lost for a month, the kids finally get up and clean their rooms. As long as mom doesn’t back down, maybe she has to do this one more time. After this, mom says “kids, eat your peas and liver” and even if they hate peas and liver they’ll begin eating them.
What the kids have learned is mom no longer gets upset. She doesn’t raise her voice, nor does she look particularly serious. All they know is mom speaks once, in a matter-of-fact tone, and if they don’t follow through, there’s a consequence. While mom’s not abusive, she’s also not just taking away desert. It’s an effective consequence.
We use this example of “mom” to illustrate that harsh tones and forceful physiology will produce diminishing returns, over time. Pleasant tones and warm physiology can earn the highest level of respect if combined, (creatively associated) with the right principles and when needed, resourceful consequences. The key is resourceful consequences.
The example leaves out the process of teaching dogs how to perform behaviors (exercises), linking tremendous pleasure to doing them, developing new behaviors into habits, and to do all of these BEFORE resourceful consequences are introduced. Given this approach there should seldom be the need for consequences. Even then consequences have to be first taught without any negative association in order for them to be completely understood.