“Who’s a good doggie, then? Are you a good doggie? Yes, you are a good doggie!” Dog are familiar with this type of one-sided conversation. Non-dog people have a really hard time tolerating this sort of conversation. What’s the point of talking to a dog, especially a puppy, in such a goofy and socially embarrassing way?
Using a high-pitched, funny voice combined with a wide smile gets a dog’s attention. Puppies are especially distracted by just about anything because the world is so new. In order to get their attention, use a goofy yet excited tone of voice. These voices let a puppy or dog know when they are being good or have correctly performed a behavior.
When you combine a squeaky voice with good things like treats, walks or affection, then the dog has a huge incentive to pay attention to you, recommends dog trainer and author Liz Palika. If you change your voice to a low growl, then the dog knows immediately that he or she has done something wrong. This change in voice also gets their attention so that they will often freeze and look to you to see what is the matter. Never overuse this corrective tone of voice so the dog does not learn to ignore you.
Why So High?
Why does a high-pitched, squeaky and excited voice work so well in getting a dog or puppy’s attention? Do this experiment. Calmly walk into a room with a brand new squeaky toy while a dog is sound asleep. Sit down and begin squeezing the toy so that it squeaks. Unless the dog is dead or heavily sedated, the dog will leap up and onto the squeaky toy.
Squeaky toys and squeaky voices are thought to sound similar to squeak-producing prey animals like rodents, birds or rabbits. Injured prey to tend to squeal or squeal. If this theory is correct, then reacting to squeak is an instinctive reaction. Even puppies that have not been raised to hunt or introduced to an injured rodent will still react to a squeak toy. My own dog, Pony, at seven weeks old reacted that way long before she caught her first mouse.
Use in Real Life
Many dog experts such as the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine urge puppy or dog owners to use an excited tone of voice when teaching a dog to come when called or when the dog urinates where he or she is supposed to urinate. This helps to reinforce not only the desired behavior, but also the effectiveness of the funny voice.
For example, one day Pony got loose as a puppy. I found her on the train tracks. I could hear a train coming. We lived just outside of Bath, England at the time and the trains run a lot faster than they do in the United States. I did first try to run for her, but that triggered her to run further down the tracks. Perhaps she thought I was initiating a game of tag.
I then used the high, excited, goofy voice to call her, trying to keep my voice from wavering in panic. I slapped my thighs and smiled. Pony jumped off of the tracks and ran to me just before the train would have slammed into her.
One Warning For Children
Because high squeaky noises may mimic injured prey, small children with their high-pitched voices and bizarre sudden movements may get a dog so excited that he or she chases a child and knocks it over. The dog may even mouth the child. Children should be cautioned to make slow, deliberate movements around a dog.
Small children should never be left alone with dogs, no matter how reliable the dog. This can help prevent accidents to both children and dogs.
“KISS Guide to Raising a Puppy.” Liz Palika. Dorling Kindersley Publishing; 2002.
Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. “Training Information for the Dog and Cat.” http://www.vetmed.vt.edu/vth/sa/clin/cp_handouts/Training.pdf
YouTube. “Expert Village: How to Train Puppies: Train Your Puppy Not to Bite.” Melanie McElroy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDyyGMa3Sc8
Wisegeek. “Why Do Dogs Like Squeaky Toys?” http://www.wisegeek.com/why-do-dogs-like-squeaky-toys.htm