Creating kinder, gentler experiences for pets


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Pet Perception Management by Dr. Rolan Tripp

Instructive Praise and Instructive Reprimands

Ever since wolf cubs were first adopted by humans, humans have been trying to communicate with the canine species. Dogs have learned to understand human whistles, words, hand signals, facial expressions, intentional, and even unintentional, body language.


To simplify the communication process, we humans have learned that dogs can quickly learn what specific human sounds mean in any language. If the sound is repeatedly associated with a clear physical cue, the dog learns to associate the two. This is the basis of teaching the dog to sit, come, stay, etc.

No threats. Ideally, communication between dog and person is understood without threat.


No scolding. Unfortunately, dogs do not always understand and follow the human's cue, and the human often resorts to yelling or punishment.


No confusion. In some cases, the owner has never fully established a positive leadership role, and therefore the dog does not recognize the human as having the authority to give instruction. Far more often, the human had not taken the time to sufficiently teach the dog the meaning of the verbal cue in different situations.


Clear message. Finally, in some cases, the dog simply did not understand the person due to confusing voice tone or body language. For example, to the dog, the word come is a very different sound than, "Here boy, come 'ere now."  Humans may learn the same meaning comes from many sounds, but the dog is trying to learn to recognize the sound itself.

When the dog sees the postman and begins to bark, quickly change the tone and volume to an instructive reprimand using the word, "QUIET!"


Voice toneThe best way to give a verbal cue  is in a calm, neutral voice with a relaxed but firm body posture that communicates a positive expectation that the dog will perform the requested task.

Instructive Reprimand

If the dog does not respond as expected, scolding most likely confuses the dog and decreases the bond between person and pet. Do not repeat the Instruction in a louder and more threatening tone. If the dog is confused, the threat only adds anxiety not learning.

Tell the dog what TO do not what NOT to do. For example, chewing wrong things and excessive barking are two commonly perceived crimes committed by dogs. Useful instructive reprimands are, "OFF" (back off from that object) or "LEAVE IT" (stop touching what you are now touching) or "DROP" (release that object from your mouth) and "QUIET." In this context the owner wants the dog to STOP doing something. If the owner simply yells "NO," the dog knows there is potential punishment, but might not know what to do to avoid that punishment. Instead of NO, the instruction is more clear when one says "QUIET" or "OFF" to help the dog better understand how to comply with the request and avoid punishment.

Instructive Praise


Positive Reinforcement. Instructive praise helps the dog associate the verbal cue with the behavior in a positive context. Verbal praise is much better than human silence after the dog complies with a request or instruction.


If the dog does respond to an instruction, immediate praise helps the dog to learn what is right. Praise is appreciated by most dogs when it is given selectively and not randomly. Praise can be instructive as well if using a praise tone. If the dog sits on cue, instead of "Good Dog," say, "Good Sit." 

Prevention.  One of the most useful aspects of instructive praise is preventing an anticipated unwanted behavior. If excessive barking is anticipated, the cue, quiet, instructs the dog to prevent unwanted barking. For example, if you see the postman coming before the dog sees him, begin to praise, "Good Quiet" repeatedly. If the dog knows the meaning of "Quiet", this pre-emptive instruction may prevent barking as the dog is enjoying the praise.If the dog sees the postman and begins to bark, by quickly changing the tone to an instruction by using the same word, "QUIET," gives the canine a clear contrast.


The dog will understand more clearly what you want when instructive praise turns to an instructive reprimand. It may be useful to use a new sound interruption such as "Ah-Ah" to interrupt the dog and then give an instruction that you know your dog will do for praise.

When you change your thinking about your pet, and apply new training methods,
you communicate more clearly
. Your pet responds with love, respect and good behavior.

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Copyright 2001-Present with All Rights Reserved by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS | Animal Behavior Network & Affiliates