Language of Learning


Dogs are motivated by attention, and they do not care whether it is negative or positive attention. Say, for example, that your dog is whining or barking to get your attention. As soon as you make eye contact, the dog thinks, “Gotcha!” Dogs always perform with the intent of a payback or gain. So, the next time your dog tries to train YOU, by barking, scratching you with his paw, rubbing his head on you, or staring at you, put him to work. Ask for a sit or a down, or instruct him to go lie down. Every time we habitually reach out and stroke our pets when they demand affection, they are training us and treating us like lower class members of the family pack.

Body Language

When we are teaching or guiding our dog to act the way we want him to, it is very important to use proper body language. If you bend over your dog and move around him tentatively, you are providing mixed signals. Dogs will interpret bending over as either a playful posture (he will be excited), or as a pleading, submissive gesture (he will ignore you). He may also see it as a threatening stance (he will become fearful or aggressive). The most effective posture when training your dog is to stand tall, throw your shoulders back, and move with confidence; the body language of a true leader.

Tone Of Voice

Dogs sense different tones of voice: happy tones, directional tones, corrective tones, and high-pitched squeals. Happy tones should be used to praise good behaviors. Directional tones should be used when training for a behavior. The directional tone is confident and non-hesitating and spoken without a “question-like” ending. Corrective tones should be spoken in a disapproving way and in an indignant manner. Yelling at the dog only makes a situation worse. The dog will either cringe in fear (learning does not occur) or he will think that you are joining in on his barking fest. A true leader will quickly communicate disapproval in a controlled and quiet manner.


A high-pitched squeal communicates fear, confusion, submission, or pain. This is why dogs often react quite fearfully to young children.

A Winning Combination

Next time you work with your dog, think about what your body is doing, what your tone of voice sounds like, and when you make eye contact with your dog. You should make eye contact when he is performing a behavior that you want to encourage, for example when you dog is lying quietly, chewing a bone or sitting by your side. Remember, love and leadership is in the eye of the beholder!

Article submitted by: © Nancy King (Biography & Additional Information)