Voice training is the next training step after leash training. It allows you to enjoy time with your pet, knowing that he will be safe and well behaved wherever you take him. A pet that isn't trained to obey voice commands is put at risk every time your door or gate is opened. That's why while it's crucial to train your pet to Sit and Stay, there are also privileges associated with having a pet who's properly trained to obey a full range of voice commands such as Heel, Come, Down, and No.
Start Early and Train Thoroughly
Voice training should begin as early as possible. While it's not difficult, it does require the same patience and persistence as leash training, as well as a bit more time. But keep in mind that retraining a "problem pet" requires a great deal more effort than training him right in the first place.
Voice training is all about developing and reinforcing clear, consistent communication between you and your dog. Always begin off-leash training in a safe, fenced-in area and teach each new voice command separately, in a sequential order. Build trust by using the same one-word voice commands, in the same tone, every time you train. Your pet needs to learn that you are dependable. An unexpected reaction from you will cause confusion, and a stressed pet stops learning.
The same command given in a new situation is another source of confusion. Once your pet has mastered essential voice commands in the fenced-in setting, you will need to repeat the training in a variety of situations until he clearly understands that voice commands must be obeyed no matter where you both are or what distractions are occurring.
Command, Reward, Repeat
Training methods vary in the details, but in general, voice command training involves ensuring your pet's safety; teaching your pet by reinforcing and correcting his responses; and distraction-proofing him through extended training in novel situations. The basic methodology for an average household pet works like this:
- In a safe, distraction-free environment, show your pet the correct behavior while voicing its corresponding one-word command in a clear, authoritative tone.
- Praise each successful accomplishment with petting or verbal praise, and reward with a treat if you choose to. (Note: Never confuse your pet with extra words during the one-word command phase of training.)
- Repeat until your pet learns to respond immediately to each one-word command.
- Distraction-proof your pet by repeating the training in different settings and situations.
Off-Leash Training Aids
There are a number of devices for helping you train your dog to respond promptly and reliably to your voice commands. These are the categories:
- Long Line and Drop Line. Specially designed leashes (leads) to ensure your pet's safety when you begin interim training in novel, unfenced situations.
- Static Correction Collar (E-Collar). Delivers low levels of electrical stimulation that can be adjusted to match the dog's temperament to eliminate unwanted behaviors. Controlled by a remote device held in the owner's palm during training sessions. Can be programmed to work when owners are absent for either barking and containment issues
- Spray Collar. Uses a burst of water or scented spray that discourages dog's from continuing with their unwanted behavior.
- Clicker Devices. Small devices based on Pavlovian conditioning that help your pet learn a command by associating the sound of the clicker with receiving a treat: for example, you say "sit" and as soon as your pet's butt hits the ground you click, then praise and reward him with a treat. Once the voice commands are established, treats and clickers aren't needed.