Cues: How We Say Them, What We Say, or Both?
When giving our dogs praise or cues, what is most important, the words we are saying, how we say them, or both? As an example, you can give your dog praise by saying, “yes” or “good dog” in a very monotone manner, removing as much emotion from your voice as possible or give the very same praise with happy excitement in your voice. Which way of delivering praise would your dog understand best?
According to research recently released by a group of Hungarian researchers, dogs respond best to verbal praise when they know the praise word and that word is said in what the dog understands to be a happy tone. They found that dogs pay attention to what we say (trainer lexicon) as well as how we say it (intonation) to assess what we want them to do.
I believe a dog’s ability to understand us not only applies when we are praising but in other aspects of training too. In my Basic Training and Recall classes, I emphasize the importance of being happy and excited when calling your dog (“Come” cue), no matter the situation. This research strongly supports the reasons why we call our dogs only when good things are going to happen and while using a happy, excited tone. A dog that understands the “Come” cue to mean they are about to be rewarded by an owner with a happy tone is much more likely to come when called. This could be a life-saver in an emergency situation.
If you like to read the technical stuff, then you may want to read the full article in the journal Science:
A good write-up on the study by CNN: