Luke stood in the middle of the living room and let out a couple of deep alarm barks. Both Jessie and Tilley dropped their bones as their ears shot back and flat. They listened for another moment and then charged the front door. Both had jumped to the conclusion that someone had knocked at the door. Luke smiled and grabbed one of the bones that had been dropped in the confusion. Smart boy.
Loud can be confusing. Unfortunately many humans feel the need to "get loud" when asking their dog to do something. Loud is better, right? Not with dogs it's not.
Have you ever whispered to your dog? If not, try it. You will see how much better they listen. Even when you remain completely silent yet use your body language, your dog gets it. Dogs are all about body language; so when someone shows off to you how their dog can use hand signals alone for their obedience, it's not so impressive although it is cool when someone gives this knowledge to their dog. Dogs actually learn had signals before they learn the verbal cue for anything.
Why dogs hear better than we do - headstuff.org
Using your body alone enables you to get a glimpse at how our dogs communicate at the level in which they do. Watching for those tiny signals can be a difficult task if you have never watched for them before. Once you start to see them, you can't stop seeing them.
When we talk quietly to our dogs they actually listen more carefully. Don't you find that when someone yells at you or has a very loud and obnoxious voice, you shut off your listening? Same goes for your dog, less is more. I often chat away to Elsa (yes I do talk to my dog) while I am in the kitchen or even watching a t.v. show. The words don't have a great deal of importance to her but she does listen for those specific words that might. Perhaps I'll say "cookie" in a long and drawn out sentence. Her ears at attention hoping that a meaningful word like "food" will be spoken.
The smarter the dog, or I should say, a dog who is accustom to learning will have a large retention for verbal cues. They can also learn to anticipate words through tone and our body language. So if I stand in the middle of a room remaining completely still and say "'cookie," Elsa will raise her ears with anticipation. She will then wait for my follow up movement. But, if I move towards the kitchen and say "Elsa do you want a cookie?" I will receive a much more significant response from her.
I remember waaaaaay back when I was a young'n just learning about conventional obedience. You know the yank and choke type from back in the 70s and 80s? Makes me shudder now but there was nothing else back then. We would have our dogs down by belting out DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!! As if somehow yelling the word would make our dogs perform better. It actually has quiet the opposite impact. Nowadays I simply point to the ground and Elsa will down. She often goes half down and waits to see if I really mean it; and my still body lets her know that I am serious.
I love to whisper to my dogs. Of course as they age, whispering goes out the window with many. All of my dogs but Luke lost most of their hearing in the very senior years. This was when body language and signals became imperative.
Dogs can hear far better than we mere humans. Why then do we feel the need to yell out to them? Who knows, humans are weird.