The Dog Box

2017-08-24 06:00

HI SUSAN.
When our Mastiff, Judo, is misbehaving my wife reprimands him in a typical high-pitched “what a naughty boy”-type of way. All that this achieves is to make him more annoying and excitable. Please can you give any help with this? Thank you.

JAKO

Thanks for the interesting question. There is a human penchant to use a “language” dubbed motheresse when talking to babies and dogs. The term describes a manner of vocalising that modulates in pitch and is higher than normal, sometimes by as much as an octave, and very screechy.

Although this type of speech can be encouraging when needing to entice a lethargic dog, it can backfire when used on a stressed or otherwise aroused animal. The increased stimulation aroused by this manner of speech can sometimes even boil over into an aggressive response from the dog.

Dogs are drawn to people who are softly spoken and calm. They have excellent hearing and will be more inclined to respond to quiet, self-confident leadership than to a whining, squeaky voice. To vocalise in a shrill, agitated, staccato tone, “It’s all right baby. It’s all right. No, no, don’t scratch granny. Stop it. Stop it”, while a dog is trying to hump granny is liable to escalate rather than avert an undesirable behaviour. The dog will most likely think you are equally excited by his behaviour and take this as encouragement.

It’s well to know that throughout the animal kingdom high pitched sounds are associated with fear, immaturity, excitement and vulnerability. It is the lower sounds that are read as signals of authority, aggression, threats and strength. If you need to sound authoritative, use a low, steady voice when addressing your dog. Remember, an octave down, not up. To calm an animal down you firstly need to get your own emotional state onto a plateau. Then use a register of voice that reflects the response you would like to see from your dog. Use long, steady, mid-range sounds that would centre you, and you will see the dog reflecting your own response.

Susan Henderson© info@dogboxtraining school.co.za 082 386 5805.

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