Show that you are pleased
Because dogs are unable to communicate with us vocally they use their other senses to try to analyze our emotions and state-of-mind. Dogs can read a great deal from our eyes and facial expressions, our body posture, the way and the speed that we move, the emotional scents we give off, as well as the tone and the emotion in our voices. This is why it is very important to show our genuine pleasure and approval when the dog gets it right - dogs are not fools, they can easily tell if we are "going through the motions" and are not really concentrating on our dogs.
But don't be TOO pleased!
However, it is just as important not to over compensate and act or sound too exciting, as this sudden surge of emotion can break the dog's concentration so that it is unable to remember what it is being rewarded for. Above all - DON'T SHOUT(!) with the emotion or excitement of the occasion. Dogs associate raised voices and emotions with stressful situations in their past (after all, we have all shouted at our dogs at one time or another when they have done something wrong - it's not a very positive thing to do but we are all human!) and the dogs will think that they are being told off rather than praised.
Try to keep your voice calm and quiet whilst giving commands to your dog (see Dog's Dictionary), then show your pleasure and happiness when praising the dog by slightly increasing the height of the voice without raising the sound - "loud whispers" are very effective, particularly with men who usually speak with deep low voices.
Experiment in different training situations (both at home and elsewhere) on what level of sound, tone of voice, and words you use. Which combinations gives the most pleasure to your dog and which can over excite the dog in certain situations? Watch the tail and body posture - you can learn a great deal about the dog's emotions (as well as their calming signals) from observing your dog in various situations.
Touching and stroking are praise as well
Finally, don't forget the wonderful motivator - a dog's sense of touch. Almost all dogs have their own favourite spots where they really enjoy being either stroked or rubbed. Some love to be touched around the base of the ears, others their hind quarters, chest, stomachs or under the chin. Meanwhile others find these or other areas too sensitive or intrusive to gain any pleasure being touched there. Try to avoid holding or touching a dog by the scruff of its neck or above the withers - being touched there is a threatening or domineering signal between dogs, and your unwelcome touch will undo all the praise you are trying to give your dog.
Once again, experiment to find out whether long or short strokes are more effective; circles; the pressure you exert; concentrating on one specific spot or covering a wider area; what your dog enjoys when it is relaxed and calm; what it prefers when it is excited or tired.
There are courses, videos and books available that explain the wonderful healing power of touching and communicating with dogs and other animals. Details of various practitioners can be found on the Tellington Touch website.
This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).
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