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How To Praise Your Dog

Updated on November 4, 2007
Your dog hangs on your every word
Your dog hangs on your every word

The most important first word your dog needs to learn is "no". But don't make that the ONLY word he or she knows. You want to have your dog want to be with your and want to please you. In order to do this, you need to know how to reward your dog for good behavior. You don't always have to reward with food or toys. Your dog may crave food and toys, but he or she also craves your praise. By praising your dog regularly as a reward, your dog will be as happy as if you gave him or her treats.

Pack Structure

The dog prefers to be part of a group and to have everyone in that group happy. In feral dog groups and wolf packs, each pack member knows his or her place and what is job he or she is expected to do. They expect to share the bad times and the good times. A good pack always cooperates. In order to know how to cooperate, the lower ranking members will be constantly looking at the pack leaders to see what the leaders want them to do.

Look at your dog looking at you, the pack leader. A dog who wants to please you (or who is bored) will be looking at your face. Your dog drinks in every nuance of your body language, voice and facial expression. Most dogs want to please in order to be liked. But to work for the good stuff, they wait for clues from you to tell them what to do.

What's In A Name

The second most important word your dog needs to know, after "No", is his or her name. You need to pick a short name, preferably only three syllables at the most, in order to get and keep your dog's attention. For example, if you name your dog Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious and you saw him just about to dig up the rose bed, by the time you finished calling out his name, the roses will be a goner and your dog thinking that you are babbling nonsense.

All of the praise in the world will be for nothing if the dog doesn't pay any attention to you. Don't be tempted to pick a really cute but potentially confusing name like "Sit" or "Stay". This will not get you anywhere in training. Make the dog's name distinctive from other commands or words you may say around the dog a lot. You can even use a different tone of voice to say the name to make it sound different from all the other words you say.

Good Doggie!

Be just as quick to praise your dog verbally as you would if you saw the dog misbehaving. And when you praise with a happy voice, smile. Dogs do understand what a smile is for. Get down to the dog's level and don't lean over him for a really good praise. Don't wait too long to praise. If the dog does good, praise as soon as you can, so the dog makes the association with the behavior just performed making you speak the happy voice. Your dog will learn that you are not only to be respected, but that you dole out good stuff.

One of the little things you can do to help get the dog to behave the way you want is to praise him or her when the dog is lying down quietly, or sitting beside you quietly. With no preamble, just say, "Good dog!" Doing this when the dog is not expecting it can encourage the dog to always pay attention to you, because you never know when good stuff is coming.


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