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Teaching Canines a Human Vocabulary


Did you ever stop to think about what we expect our dogs to learn from us? When we ask dogs to respond to words like "come" and "sit", we are in fact
expecting our dogs to learn a foreign language. Besides that, language is species-specific. Don't look now, but dogs and people are NOT the same species. How dogs express emotions may look similar to us but how they communicate with each other is actually quite different. The more you understand how dogs communicate, the more you will understand how to be an effective teacher for a canine student. Before expecting your dog to learn an English vocabulary, level the playing field by first learning a little dog language.

How many words can a dog learn? One border collie learned 200 words.
Read about Rico. Why, doesn't your dog know that many words?  It takes time, patience and skill to TEACH dogs to understand and respond to a human vocabulary.  

How to teach vocabulary

Consider beginning by asking your dog to "sit" to earn your dog desirable rewards such as: food treats; toys; praise; walks; going in or out of the house; or anything else that your dog wants. 

The place to start in raising your IdealDog™ is deciding on the vocabulary you want to teach.  Introduce each word, one at a time, using the instructions below. 

Each vocabulary word can be used in three ways

  1. Instruction:  This word tells you what I would like you to do.

  2. Correction:  The tone I am using reminds you that I am in charge.

  3. Reinforcement:  I praise your response by repeating the word, "Good Sit."

Suggested canine vocabulary

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Instruction Meaning
At (Ah-Ah) "What you are doing right now is a mistake." (Interruption for Instruction)
Bang "Lay down on your side and hold still."
Bark "Start barking."
Chew "Chew on this object."
Come "Come here, sit in front of me and look at me."
Down "Lie down on the ground."
Drop it "Drop what you have in your mouth."
Easy "Don't pull on the leash."
Fetch "Go get what I just threw or what I am pointing to and bring it to me."
Finish "From a sit in front, walk around me, and sit on my left, ready to heel."
Give "Put what is in your mouth in my hand."
Go potty "Eliminate (urine, feces) here and now." (Alternative, "Get busy")
Good "That was great." (Linked to food, then food is phased out.)
Heel "Walk directly at my left side, at the pace I set."
Hold still "Relax and don't resist while I hold you in this position."
Jump "Jump into my arms."
Kennel "Go into this enclosure."
Kiss "Give me one quick lick on the cheek."
Leave it "Don't touch that object"
Let's go "Walk without pulling on the leash"
Look "Look into my eyes."
Move "Move out of the way."
Off "Move your body off that place or object."
On your mat "Go lay down on a designated mat, towel, etc."
Quiet "Stop barking or whining."
Roll over "Lay down, roll over, and get up again and look at me."
Say, "Hi" "Act friendly towards this dog or person that I have determined is not a threat."
Settle "Relax and settle down – act calm."
Shake "Sit and raise your right (or left) paw."
Sit "Sit (place rump on the ground) and look at me."
Stand "Stand here and stay still."
Station "Go to the designated location and wait quietly."
Stay "Don't move from that body position." (Might be "Sit," "Down," or "Stand" followed by the "Stay" Instruction)
Take it "Take this from my hand and hold it in your mouth."
Up "Jump here (pat the place)."
Wait "Wait (do not move forward) until released." Use at doors, curbs, in or out of cars, and at property line).
Watch "Look into my eyes."

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