Teach your Dog to Say I Love You
Dog Training 101 - Learning to Speak
Have you ever seen those videos of dogs who are able to bark out phrases like "Rye Ruv Roo" in that characteristic Scooby Doo voice? Have you ever wondered how those people taught their dog a trick like that?
I was wondering the same thing, and decided—partly by accident—to see if I could get my dog Mukha to learn a few words!
When the Sirens Wail, so do the Dogs
Mukha, like many dogs, has the instinctual tendency to howl at ambulance or police sirens as they drive by, and I've never been one to get annoyed by this. In fact, I quite like to watch her yell out to what must, in her mind, be some lonely dog in the distance. On more than a few occasions, I've even howled along with her, which really prolongs the whole experience—much to my neighbor's delight!
After several of these performances, I noticed that she would often mimic the pitch of my voice. If I let out a low, quiet howl, then she would follow suit with a half-hearted baritone moan! She even started to copy my mouth movements, which is when I really thought it might be possible to squeeze a word or two out of those melodies!
Practice Makes Perfect
Seeing as how there are no shortages of sirens, we have quite a few opportunities to practice. Some days she's talkative, other days she won't have anything to do with it; but every now and then, the planets will align and she bursts out a heartfelt "I Love You"! I'm sure it's quite a bit of wishful thinking on my part, but it makes for a great party trick nonetheless.
The secret is to get into a back and forth dialog. Give the dog time to howl, and when she's taking a breath and gearing up for the next one, let out "I Love You"—or whatever phrase you are trying to teach—in your best howler voice. If the dog is watching you, she will pick up on your cadence and eventually try to mimic it. Dogs are not so eloquent with their articulation, but they can certainly get the R's and W's, so choose your words accordingly!
I'm a big fan of positive reinforcement when teaching Mukha a new trick, and there's no better guide to understanding how this works than Karen Pryor's book: Don't Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training. She really gets into the psychology behind PR, and how to get the best results without resorting to coercion. There's definitely more to it than just having a handful of treats at the ready. Check it out!
We're working towards this!
Mukha's choir - We think Mukha may have taught her friends how to howl!
That's Mukha on the cover!
It's always interesting to hear stories from fellow dog lovers!