Tone of Voice for Instructing Your Puppy
Your puppy is more responsive to the tone of your voice than to what you’re saying. Excited message tones excite your puppy. Calming message tones have a relaxing effect, and directional tones convey a sense of purpose.
If your puppy thinks of you as another dog and you start yelling, she hears barking. Barking (yelling) interrupts behavior; it doesn’t instruct. It also increases excitement. You may have a puppy who backs off from a situation when you yell (although she’ll probably repeat the same behavior later). The reason she backs off is because your yelling frightens her. It’s not because she understands what you’re yelling about. Yelling is just not good.
Here are three message tones you should commit to memory when instructing your puppy:
Delighted tone: Use this tone when you want to praise your puppy. It should soothe her, not excite her. Find a tone that appears to make your pup feel loved and proud.
Directive tone: Use this tone for your commands. It should be clear and authoritative, not harsh or sweet. Give commands once with this tone while standing in an upright position.
Discipline tone: Use this tone to tell your puppy to back off or move on. The word you use doesn’t matter as much as the tone. The tone should be shaming or disapproving, such as the tone you’d naturally use when saying, “How could you?” or “That’s unacceptable.” Discipline has more to do with timing and tone than your puppy’s transgressions.
Don’t repeat your commands. Dogs don’t understand words. Instead, they become used to sounds. Saying “Sit, sit, sit, Boomer, sit!” sounds different from “Sit” — which is what Boomer is used to. If you want your dog to listen when you give the first command, make sure you give it only once; then reinforce your expectations by positioning your dog. (When positioning, gently squeeze the waist muscles and lift up on your puppy’s collar.)
If you have kids, you’ve probably noticed that sometimes they call out to the puppy in a very high-pitched tone and sometimes repeat commands over and over when the puppy doesn’t respond. You’ll likely be concerned your young children are confusing the puppy and undoing all your positive efforts, but try not to worry too much.
Until kids are 12 years old, you’re better off focusing on what they’re doing right instead of homing in on their imperfections. My advice is simply to overenunciate all your commands so that the kids figure out how to pronounce them properly and in an appropriate tone. If you overenunciate each command, your kids will notice the effects and start mimicking you. And when your kids copy your intonations, they transfer the control from you to them.