Categories: Small Dog Teaching and Bonding-Published On: April 30, 2023-
Boston Terrier listening and words "somebody sounds upset"

350 Words, 2 minute read: In this Small Bites mini-post, we find new research answering the question: how do I get my small dog to listen?

Want Your Pup To Listen? Speak Nicely!

This news tip telling us how to get our small dogs to listen comes from one of my favorite dog experts, who writes Psychology Today’s “Canine Corner” column.
Some of you may know Dr. Stanley Coren from your own reading. Or, you may recognize his name from Downward Sizing Dog. I interviewed Dr. Coren in connection with my chapter on small dog intelligence (aptly named “Small Dogs Are Smart” :).
In his recent article, entitled “Talk Nicely When Training Dogs. It Makes A Difference,” Dr. Coren discusses a new study providing insight into getting our small dogs to listen. This new research proves the way we talk to our dogs when we’re teaching them has an outsize impact on the success of their learning.
Pet parents who use an upbeat, friendly voice in a higher pitch will see much better short-term and long-term training results.

Of course, most of us don’t intentionally speak in harsh voices to our dogs. Nevertheless, we’ve all encountered dog guardians who sound exasperated and frustrated, and sometimes angry, when they’re asking for their dog’s cooperation. That negative energy must shut down something in our pups’ brains, and they simply don’t respond as well.

These study results can hardly surprise us. In fact, none of us react well to being spoken to gruffly. So, while I’m sure you already avoid harsh speech with your pups, try a week or so of speaking in a bright, cheery voice that’s higher than you might otherwise use.

Let’s See If Friendlier, Higher Pitches Work!

I’m already completely committed to calm and kind interactions with ALL species at home. However, I admit I don’t like speaking in higher tones. It’s a leftover from my big dog days where I worked to sound authoritative. But I do always speak gently to Phoebe and Scout. And, I know they love being told “thank you” when I ask them to do things.
I’m going to try raising the pitch of my voice now too, and see what that does. Let me know if you try it and share how it works in the comments. Then, we’ll all know if this is the answer to the question “how do I get my small dog to listen?”

Want more tips on living well with your small dog? Check out our small dog blog Eat, Play, Love.

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