Dog Vocabulary

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When you begin to train your dog, give some thought to the vocabulary you will use. Scientists have shown that a dog can be trained to understand as many as two hundred words. But no one is sure in just what sense the dog understands the word.

We know that dogs can learn the meaning of commands when those commands are presented as words, as gestures, or even as whistled signals. We also know that dogs depend on non-verbal signals, such as your posture and your tone of voice.

You want your dog to obey certain commands for safety’s sake and to make your lives together easier.

The first command your dog should learn is “no” and it should simply mean stop whatever you are doing at once. You will find plenty of occasions to reinforce this meaning with your puppy. When your dog is doing something you don’t like, go to the dog, say “no” calmly by firmly and move it or distract it.

If you vary the word “no” with “don’t do that” or “stop it,” it will take your dog much longer to learn what you mean. If you shout at your dog, he will just be frightened and not learn anything.

Most people teach their dog to respond to the command “come.” But we use the word often in ordinary conversation, and we use it to call other beings, such as children. Your uses of the word can be confusing to your dog. Consider choosing a nonsense-syllable as your command to come.

To help your dog learn which of the thousands of words you say every day is directed at her, preface your commands with your dog’s name. To help your dog learn, say each command as “name, command.” Extra words only confuse.

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