QUESTION: My dog ignores my commands unless I yell at it. How can I stop shouting at my dog?
ANSWER: It’s important to try to work your dog quietly whenever possible. Once it will obey commands given in your normal voice rather than shouting, you’ll be well on the way to achieving higher standards of work. It takes time though.
Working quietly makes a huge difference to both training and working the dog. If the dog is more relaxed, the stock will be too, and they’ll be easier to work, as a result.
If you continuously shout at the dog, it will eventually get accustomed to your shouting, and accept it as normal, but if you’re already shouting at the top of your voice you’ll have nothing in reserve for when the dog does something wrong!
Be a dog whisperer!
Where possible, I try to work the dog quietly, even whispering if I can. Dogs have incredibly good hearing, so there’s rarely a problem with the dog hearing my commands. Wanting to obey them is another matter!
I’m always ready to give a short, sharp correction when required, especially with a trainee. A single sharp “HEY!” or similar, should be all that’s needed.
You won’t achieve this level of obedience immediately of course, but TRY to work your dog quietly, and only raise your voice when you really must. You’ll soon begin to see in improvement.
The closer you are to the dog, the more control you have over it, so maximum cooperation is more likely when it’s working very near to you initially. Then, as it responds better to your quiet commands, increase the distance GRADUALLY.
Working alongside your dog in a yard is an excellent opportunity for talking quietly to it.
Treat practical work as a training session
Of course, it’s not always possible to work close to the dog on a farm, if you rely on it to handle the sheep for you, but if you’re prepared to get that bit closer before you send the dog off, it will help a lot.
I always aim to treat practical work as a training session when I can. If you’re working on a tight schedule, it’s not possible, but any opportunity to correct or encourage the dog is taken advantage of. That way, the dog keeps improving.
If the dog’s not listening when you’re close to it though, you need to go back to basics. Get it into a training ring or small paddock, and MAKE it do as you say when you tell it.
We have a dog called Portia (both pictures on this page) who’s got huge potential, but for some time she would only stop quickly if I yelled at her. Eventually, I put her back in the training ring, and instead of shouting, I (sort of) shouted quietly! I stifled the shout so that it had a similar tone and urgency to a full shout, but was much quieter, and sounded ‘strained’. It worked!
Try shouting at the dog through clenched teeth! If the dog’s working closely to you and your body language tells it you REALLY mean business, it will adjust to the quieter commands. Portia’s beginning to respond well when she’s up to eighty or more metres from me.
Keep the work simple when working the dog on quiet commands – and remember to give it lots of praise (in a soft voice, of course). If you can arrange easy tasks, work the dog with very soft commands, and then praise it. You’ll be on track to win the dog over to working off quiet commands.
Whistle commands are another way to avoid shouting. Once a dog knows its whistle commands properly, it will often obey them more readily than voice commands (in some circumstances). It’s definitely worth a try!
We recommend the Online Sheepdog Training Tutorial “Backwards is the way forward” as the best for teaching a dog to work on quiet commands.
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