It’s NOT what you say
I’ve always used my voice a lot when training. I often joke about running “name dogs” … meaning I use their name a lot.
I use their name to slow them down, have them walk up, or remind them I’m in the picture.
Obviously, it’s the same word … but means TOTALLY different things to the dog. A soft Moss, Moss will make him take very slow, soft and calm steps at the pen and if said “firmer” he will walk up stronger. A hard MOSS will slow him down when he’s starting to push to hard on a fetch or drive. A medium Moss will remind him at the shed that he doesn’t need to put that much pressure on the sheep.
Tone is what dogs respond to … not just words. You need to vary your tone with both your words and whistles if you want to get the best out of a dog.
A soft lie down doesn’t mean the same thing as a hard LIE DOWN to the dog and it shouldn’t to you either. If you never vary your tone … the dog can’t read you as well as he should. Which means you two aren’t as connected as you could be. If you are monotone you lose a lot of communication with your dog. Try and vary your words and whistles to let the dog know how you FEEL.
If the sheep are running away … come bye, come bye said very softly and slowly is NOT going to communicate to the dog that you need a FAST flank to catch them. If the sheep are ready to bolt you giving a HARD flank isn’t going to settle them … as it causes the to dog flank hard and sharp (which often – after it happens – is blamed on the dog for taking a hard flank :@).
When teaching outruns … if I see the dog is going to be tight I give a medium “lie down”, if he doesn’t take it he gets a HARD “lie DOWN”. When he downs … I will give a very soft “lie down” – “lie down” that actually reassures him that I’m not mad (even with the hard lie down) and that is what I want. Hearing my voice allows him to stop and think before I try to redirect him. It’s a “listen to me” and I will help you tone.
If I kept saying “lie down” with a hard, abrasive tone it would make him feel the pressure was STILL on and cause his next move to be erratic. You need the dogs mind receptive and calm before he takes his next physical action. It’s my TONE (not the words) that conveys this and allows him feel comfortable enough that he can listen and respond with not just his body but also his MIND.
Think of your voice and whistles as a musical scale and have your tones go up and down that scale. Vary each whistle and word to the intensity of what you require. If you need a hard flank … convey that to the dog. If you need yielding quiet flank … then your tone should reflect that. You will never get a soft movement from the dog with a hard tone … the dog will physically react to what he hears.
To be a good trainers I guess we all need a little Jekyll and Hyde in us.