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Are you Listening?

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Some dogs do very well with human words, but a high percentage really struggle to listen for verbal cues.

In part this is likely due to the nature of being a dog – they don’t speak in words, so probably have much less capacity for understanding them easily.

And in part it is due to the human training the dog.  We often offer small (but definite) visual cues to go with the verbal ones.

Of course, the reverse can be true as well.  If your dog prefers words, then you might find that you’re struggling to teach your visual (hand) signals.

If you can isolate the issue of verbal from visual, then you have a better chance of forcing your dog to attend to whatever is important to you.

Here I’m working on teaching Brito his verbal cues for sit, down, wait (stand) and back.

In the following video I have taken away all of his visual information so he listens much more carefully.  He has no choice but to use his ears since his eyes are of no use.  If I were in the room he would still be using his eyes to search for clues.

This video is unedited and includes errors.  Note that I can see his shadow so I know if he is responding – I can also hear when he changes position.

If you’re working on the TEAM obedience program, this exercise will do wonders for your dog’s verbal fluency! For more information on TEAM, go to

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

2 responses »

  1. Michelle Carey

    What a great traing technique, not only does Brito get a food treat but he gets you to come back out so its a double treat.

  2. Susan Smethurst

    I think you’ll find this study from Hungary to be of interest (although this article doesn’t give enough details, as it’s just a general news item). Besides the finding that dogs did indeed understand words per se (as, interestingly enough, do infants, which like these dogs could discriminate between words with meaning, even unknown meaning, and nonsense words) but also in the techniques used to train the dogs involved to lie *absolutely motionless* in the very noisy fMRI machine for 7-9 minutes. Hint: it was all R+. I’ve been following this story for awhile and will try to locate more of a scholarly summary via EBSCO online.


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