I just read about a recent study looking at how the person training a dog can affect the dog’s success rate in the training.
For the experiment they had several professional trainers, some amatuer dog lovers and a few completely inexperienced people working through several basic obedience drills. The dogs ranged from completely untrained to a few obedience champ ringers. The thing is, none of the participants knew which was which.
They all went through the basics, trying to teach the dogs to sit, to stay, to down. Some saw some great succesess, others failed miserably.
But when another group of observers watched- they also did not know the training level of either the people or the dogs- they saw some pretty telling behaviors.
When observers went back and watched the video, they paid close attention to which dogs did the best job learning the behaviors they found once thing in common: “talking” to the dogs.
Whether the person was a professional trainer or brand new to dog training, their success rate went up if they were more vocal with the dog. That doesn’t mean they were repeating the commands. ( Remember: give commands once.) But they gave the dog more direction and hints with little audible sounds as well as more positive reinforcement as they went along (Good boy, that’s it, right there.)
When novices were paired with trained obedience champ dogs, they dogs often did not respond well because the person failed to praise, asked for the wrong thing, praised at the wrong time, etc. Eventually the dogs grew tired of trying and stopped responding. Newbie trainers also gave the least amount of audible correction/praise which was refelcted in a lower success rate.
So does that mean the dogs understand? Probably not, however, if you are trying to train a dog, he may understand your tone. So go ahead and chat away. Let him know with a little “Nope” when he is doing the wrong thing. Give him plenty of praise when he does it right.