Increasing Your Dog's Vocabulary

Here are the keys to increasing your dog's vocabulary-that is, the number of English words that the two of you can share.

For some words like "drink" and "shake," use the word each time the dog does these things on his own. Say "drink" as he's lapping water from the bowl. Say "shake" when the dog gets out of the bath and shakes his coat. Then, when you place down a fresh bowl of water, you can suggest, "D rink?" (It's a good prompt to use after the dog nibbles on a rawhide chew or takes a pill.) Or, when your dog comes in from the snow, you say, "shake " before you begin drying him with a towel.

Use the same word each time you refer to a given object, place or action that you'd like the dog t o learn. Say "Steps" each time you point to the hall stairs where you want the dog to wait while you answer the door. Don't sometimes say "Up on the steps" or "Go on the stairs"-use only one word to make the association clear.

Use the same tone of voice each time, and maybe a hand signa l. (For "Steps," point to and then touch the step where you want the dog to sit.) Fix your eyes on that spot.

Wait for the dog to respond rather than saying the word over and over. The dog heard you. Your spoken word is ringing like a telephone in his head. When he does what you've asked , he answers "the call" and the word stops ringing. Don't continue to repeat your word-that would be like hanging up and redialing the phone after one ring. Give the dog a chance to understand, and keep your attention fixed on what you wanted done until he performs. If necessary, repeat th e word after you've waited a bit. Use that word frequently over the next few weeks so the dog learns to "answer" quickly.

TRAINING TIP: NAME THAT TOY Always call a toy by its name so your dog will learn to respond to your command: "Get your TOY" or "Get your B ONE." Use the word several times while the dog is playing with that toy or when he brings the toy: "RING? You want to play with the RING?" Say the word each time you have a chance to connect it with the toy. Whenever your dog responds correctly to the word (by retrieving or finding the object), be sure to use the word again as you praise him.

10 Commandments for Dogs

  1. My life is likely to last 10-15 years. Any separation from you will be painful for me. Remember that BEFORE you get me.
  2. Give me time to understand what you want from me.
  3. Place your trust in me, it is crucial to my well being.
  4. Don't be angry with me for long, and don't lock me up as punishment.You have your work, entertainment and friends. I have only YOU.
  5. Talk to me sometimes. Even if I don't understand your words, I understand your voice.
  6. Be aware that however you treat me, I'll never forget.
  7. Please don't hit me. I can't hit back, but I can bite and scratch and I really don't want to do that.
  8. Before you scold me for being uncooperati ve, obstinate, or lazy, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I'm not getting the right foods or I've been out in the sun too long or my heart is getting old and weak!
  9. Take care of me when I get old. You will get old too.
  10. Go with me on difficult journeys. NEVER say, "I can't bear to watch, or let it happen in my absence." Everything is easier for me if you are there. And always remember, I LOVE YOU!