Do you know exactly how to talk to your dog when training? Dogs might recognize pitch more than you think; read on to find out more.

Your dog knows a good thing when he hears it. Words fly over his fuzzy head but your tone of voice gets through. Just think about it from your dog’s perspective, says Woof Report’s expert dog trainer, Mike Wombacher, “There’s a stream of sound coming out of your mouth all day long, most of which has no relevance to him. In order for him to understand that some of those chunks of sound are actually intended for him, you have to help him out. The proper and effective use of your voice is extremely important when attempting to communicate with your pup.” Here’s how.

Tune into Tone

First, when you want to get your pup’s attention, look at him.  Second, begin your communication with his name. Then find a special tone of voice that is so different from your ordinary speech that your pup can pick up the difference. Think: assertive yet upbeat and positive. That’s your perfect tone.

Then when you’ve got his attention, follow through with an instruction. Many dog people run around after their pups chanting their names in relation to absolutely everything. The only thing the pup learns is to tone them out altogether.

Pick Your Pitch

With respect to tones of voice, there are three with which your pup will readily identify. To dogs, a high-pitched tone is interpreted as an invitation to play. An ordinary tone of voice is considered instructional and a low-pitched voice, a reprimand.

While this makes intuitive sense, some folks get into trouble here. For instance, when a woman gets upset, her pitch tends to rise which can result in a pup interpreting a reprimand as an invitation to play. The same is true with kids. Those that fall into one of these two groups should make an extra effort to deepen their voices if they need to reprimand their dog. On the other hand, men tend to use a gruff, low-pitched voice even when giving ordinary commands, often making a pup feel the need to offer excessive displays of submission. Men can also tend to have difficulty praising their pups in a high-pitched playful way.

To help your dog understand you, be conscious of your tone of voice. Remember, high-pitched equals fun, ordinary is instructional and low pitched is reprimanding. Keeping these simple rules in mind will do wonders to facilitate meaningful communication between you and your pup. 


The Scoop:

Thank you to Mike Wombacher, founder of Dog Gone Good! Dog Training for the tip. Mike offers group and private dog training in the San Francisco Bay Area and has authored two books on dog training.

For more training tips, check out Woof Report’s Perfect Petiquette tip category,

Thank you to our Woof Report Friend Rilla and Missy for the photo.

Originally published October 2009; reviewed and updated January 2018.