disobedient dog? Don’t bark commands at them but speak softly instead for better training results, experts say
- Experts studied the way nine mixed-breed dogs behaved over 135 sessions
- It is believed that the most pleasant atmosphere relaxes dogs, helps in their performance
If you want your dog to follow commands, you might assume that a stern voice is the answer.
But according to a new study, owners should drop the harsh words and talk nice to them instead.
The researchers found that the dogs responded to commands more accurately when their trainers used a friendly voice rather than a harsh one.
It is believed that a more pleasant atmosphere makes dogs more relaxed which helps their performance.
The team, from the Wolf Science Center at the University of Vienna and the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerai in Brazil, studied the way nine mixed-breed dogs behaved during 135 training sessions.
Dogs responded more accurately to commands when the trainers used a friendly voice rather than a harsh one. (file photo)
Each dog participated in 15 five-minute training sessions—three sessions with each of the five trainers.
While vocalizations of commands – for example “sit,” “stand,” and “roll”—were standardized and always spoken in a neutral tone of voice, there were differences in the way the trainers spoke to the dogs during the rest of the training sessions.
Each unit of interaction was scored as “pleasant”—that is, a higher-pitched speech with exaggerated emotion or a laugh; “Neutral” – that is, without a strong difference in intonation; and “references”.
Not surprisingly, the researchers found that in the sessions in which comfort talk was used, the dogs showed more negative emotional markers — less tail wagging and less time spent next to the trainer.
But more importantly, they performed less well, making fewer correct responses to the commands.
A hurtful sound may stress the dog, affecting its performance, said study author Melissa Bravo Fonseca.
“In light of our findings, we believe that the gentle speeches created a positive atmosphere, in which the animals might interact in a relaxed manner, preferring to carry out commands,” she said.
“The use of soft speeches (too) has the potential to capture the attention of the listener, and increase the social response of the receivers.”
It is believed that a more pleasant atmosphere makes dogs more relaxed which helps their performance. (file photo)
In contrast, studies have shown that stressful atmospheres may interfere with the cognitive function of animals, as well as negatively affect them emotionally, she said.
In other words, stressed/stressed animals will not respond adequately in the sessions.
Therefore, a relaxed atmosphere may improve performance.
While all dogs used in the study were command aware – meaning the training sessions were tests of compliance rather than new learning – study co-author Professor Angelica Vasconcellos believes similar results can be achieved when dogs are also taught new skills.
It concluded, “Our results indicate that a friendly voice during training supports performance and positive emotional responses in dogs.”
The results have been published in the journal Animals.