Getting Vocal

Humans like to talk.

Most of the time we do it subconsciously – babbling „empty words“ and talking on and on to fill a silence. If you’ve had a conversation with someone like this (and most of us have on more than one occasion), you know how easy it is to zone out and stop really listening to what the person’s saying.

It’s the same for animals.

I try to use as few words as possible with any animal (species). When I correct a dog, instead of saying „no“, I make some kind of noise: „Hey!“ „Ssssssst!“ „Shht!“ When people use words, they tend to keep using them. That is, they’ll keep saying „no“ unnecessarily. If we just make a sound followed by a correction, we keep it short and to the point.

Our animals will completely ignore us if we always yell „no“ pointlessly. They learn fast that you just say „no“ over and over and nothing else will happen. My communication with horses is also completely nonverbal. The only exception is when I’m working with more than one, especially at liberty. In those situations, it’s easier at times to teach the horses their names. That way, they won’t all back up or do something at once. You will be able to say „I only want this horse to do something.“

Other than that, human words aren’t all that necessary!  Try making up a sound, whatever comes to you, to correct your dog instead of repeatedly saying „no“. And… mean what you say!

Comments 2

  1. I would agree to a point. In my experience, when an animal is learning the cue, then saying it 2-3 times before you up the phase, is very helpful. Also, I was totally against verbal communication with horses, but it has helped in certain circumstances to be even lighter just recently. For example:

    Milo likes to dive for grass. I say „Head up“ in an authoritative tone, and normally I don’t have to do anything else. If he goes to dive again, I give him a chance to make the mistake and say „Head up“ right before the nose touches the ground. He normally stops mid-dive and then looks at me with a question on his face. 😉

    With losing attention I do it too. If his head is facing away, a little „Sssht“ like Sylvia Zerbini does gets him to pay attention before I ask for something. If he doesn’t pay attention, he’ll feel phases anyway. It’s like saying „phase 1 is gonna happen.“

    1. I prefer my animals to pay good attention to my body language. Through that, they pay more attention. Versus when people say „no“ a lot. Saying something like „no“ repeatedly is not effective. Two times is ok, but you have to remember: they CAN hear you. That’s why: long phase one and quick phase 2-3-4…
      Think about how animals tell an animal to stop something: their phases go pretty fast. There’s a warning sound and body language and then it’s moving towards them and a bite. Horse and dog. That’s why you see people not have effective communication when they have long phases with their horses or always saying „no“ constantly to their dog. They ignore you. Of course it depends on the personality of the animal, too.

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