The voice

Reward something your dog does and they will do it again.

Positive reinforcement works. Timing is important. Dogs work on a different timeline than people. Everything happens faster for them. You can read Alexandra Horowitz’s book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know if you want to know the details but it’s enough to know that when it comes to experiencing the world, you are driving a minivan and your dog is driving a mustang GT. You need to reward when it happens, before your dogs brain has moved on to the next thing.

Treats work very well for rewards for good behavior. Beagles love treats. It’s embarrassing the things they will do to get them.

I don’t always carry a pocket full of treats. Every time I reward a dog, I always talk to them. I use a low, slow, calming voice. I’m usually telling them what a great dog they are, but the words aren’t important, it’s the tone of voice and rubbing their belly and scratching their ears that they love. Along with treats. Every time there is treats involved, I use the same voice.

My dogs associate that voice with REWARDS. When I don’t have any rewards to give them, that voice means something really good. Almost as good as a treat. Like today, when I had 12 dogs out and I called one by name and she came to me and I got down on her level and used the voice to reward her and I soon had 11 more dogs wanting some. That’s part of how you teach recall, among other things.

One time at the Mayo Lisa had to be intubated and because that is such a horrible experience they kept her sedated for about a week. When they removed the tube and stopped the drugs, she should have come back. But she didn’t. Her tired brain had been through this stuff so many times that it couldn’t find the way back to normal for a while.

Somewhere inside she knew, and she tried, but she couldn’t. She became very agitated. I started using That Voice, the one I use with the dogs. Don’t remember the words I used, probably not “good dog”, but the words didn’t matter. That voice calmed her down, let her quit fighting and relax. It reached some place that nothing else could reach.

If you want to communicate with dogs you need to find your own voice.

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