Crazy, I know, but I do it.
Not all the time mind you, just some of the time. Namely when I’m out in public or have people over. I’m well aware that my lovely Lilo doesn’t understand any of the words that I’m saying that I haven’t taught her, and I’ve been told this by some well-meaning people who just don’t seem to understand my motives. The thing is, I’m not talking to her in complete sentences for her benefit, I’m talking to her for the benefit of others.
A shocking realization may be had right now – some people don’t like dogs. Some people are even AFRAID of dogs. So my dog that wants to jump on you to say hi? That is terrifying. My lovely little 40lb bundle of tail wagging, play growling, squirming love that they see? Hell. In saying “that isn’t how you ask to play” people realize that she isn’t a threat. When she jumps up at or squirms at somebody and I say “you know jumping means no playing, you only get to play or be pet when you sit” I don’t actually think she’s learning anything. What she IS learning is that people aren’t approaching her and that when she sits they will smile at her and I’ll pet her, otherwise no interaction. My saying “Lilo – sit” will have no influence on her if people ignore that command and come up to her while she’s airborne. However when people go “oh she wants to say hi but I’m not supposed to because jumping isn’t saying hello behaviour” she sees a shift in their behaviour – which is what I need. To socialize a dog you need other people to help – and the public can be a very hard group to train.
It’s amazing and stunning the difference I have experienced since I switched to complete sentences, people squirmed around her, or barged in for pets and let her run amok – which was, summarized, horrendously frustrating. Our training feels like it’s on fast-forward now that I speak to her in complete sentences when in public. It also eases the burden of trying to communicate to people who want to pet her. Everybody has encountered the “it’s okay I have dogs” person that somehow gets your dog to break every rule that you’ve been working on for weeks… when one says to the dog “you know that’s not how we greet people” people catch on that you are trying to train the dog – not just apologize for an isolated incident. It lets them down gently and keeps them away from your training space.
So yes, I speak to my dog in complete sentences. I’ve become proud of it and it’s been one of the more powerful training tools stuck on my belt. Hopefully some people out there can join me and speak to their dogs in full sentences in public too. Please keep in mind though that this is for the humans benefit over the dog and be less confusing in private. Lilo, sit is all she wants to hear when I actually have her attention.