Why I Don’t Use “Commands” In Dog Training

Photo by Patrick Danforth | www.clicktozen.com

Photo by Patrick Danforth | www.clicktozen.com

I often find that people think using the word "cue" instead of "command" in dog training is just a semantic difference that doesn't have any implication on the training process. I disagree.

As modern behavioral and cognitive science teaches us more about the complexity of dogs' minds and the way that they think, learn, and explore the world around them, it's becoming increasingly clear that the old-school methods that encourage you to "command your dog to obey" are outdated and downright inhumane. Dogs are eager to learn and are constantly studying our physical and vocal language, and with patience, consistency, and the right motivators for each individual dog, teaching them what is wanted of them and what isn't is only limited by the handler's ability, not the dog's.

To me, the word "command" implies a "master/servant relationship" between man and dog, which is still an all too common foundation of dog training that ultimately undermines the incredible progress we have made in understanding our dogs' minds. The word "cue" implies a much healthier relationship in which we are truly teaching our dogs what we want from them.

Now keep in mind that I'm not implying that just because someone uses the word "command" and not "cue" when teaching a dog means that they don't use humane training methods. Many great trainers do still stick to the word "command" when it comes to teaching dogs how to sit, lay down, etc. But I do hope that we can all become more mindful of how the words we use have an effect on how we and others work with dogs.

So yes, words are just words, but when they're backed by a clear understanding of dog behavior and a commitment to building a bond through mutual trust and respect, words have the power to revolutionize the dog training industry.

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Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


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