Silver Lining of Silence

As verbal communicators, it's only natural that we default to using speech to communicate with our dogs. Every family I meet is already giving verbal instructions to their dog. Normally, it's because these instructions don't seem to be working that they've reached out for professional help.

Koinonia Training starts out almost completely silent. For several weeks, we limit their dog-directed speech to verbal marking or verbal praise. Verbal instruction is absent. Why do we train this way? Especially when it's so contrary to our natural instincts?

  1. Dogs are primarily visual communicators and will always default to reading our body language first. Many dogs who "know" sit are actually reading body language and other context clues. They don't actually know the meaning of the word "Sit."
  2. Cues must be carefully taught or else they become worse than meaningless. All dogs learn by association so if you holler "Come...Come...Come...Rover, Come...Come...Come." while Rover races around the backyard, he learns that "Come" means: run-around-the-backyard. Additionally, just as humans eventually tune out a dripping faucet or construction noise from their neighbors, if your dog hears a constant stream of meaningless instruction and coaxing, he'll eventually tune that noise out.
  3. Silent training with neutral visual cues teaches the dog to think about good behavior on his own. Instead of waiting for you to tell her what to do, Lady offers attention, sits and downs on her own. She knows that those are fun and rewarding behaviors.

Don't get me wrong! We also teach verbal cues at Koinonia. We just prioritize visual cues since the dogs will default to that anyway.

If you need help with your dog's behavior, I want to help! Let's talk about your dog.