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The short answer is no! Of course you have seen that your dog can learn that words have meaning. But it’s easier for the average pet owner to confuse their dog than to teach him. Follow these tips to ensure you are making sense to your dog and increasing the chance that he’ll be on his best behavior.
1) Don’t waste your time with a cue word that is already dead and buried.
If you’ve had your dog for a little while, and every time you call, “Come!” you put your dog in the bath, crate, or some other situation he doesn’t like – let the word die! It’s going to be very difficult to get your dog to be excited about a recall with the cue, “Come!” when it tells him something he might hate is about to happen. Train a fast, happy recall by pairing a new word with rewards and fun. Then, NEVER use that word for anything your dog won’t like.
2) Unless you’re in a competition ring, there are no rules about the words you can choose as cues.
Training a new cue word is much, much easier than to re-do an old one, and there are no rules on what word you choose. Training a recall with the word, “Come!” is no different from using “Here!”, “Vamanos!”, or “Now Baby!” The possibilities are endless, because the meaning behind the word means NOTHING to your dog until training happens. If you say ANY new word, then entice your dog to come and reward him over and over, he’ll quickly learn that this word means to come.
3) Use words that come naturally to you. But don’t use one word for two cues.
This point rings true especially if you have a new dog that is a blank slate, like a pup or a rescue. For these guys, you can choose cues that spill out of your mouth naturally. If every time your pup jumps, you immediately turn away and say, “Down,” then go with “Down.” But, when it’s time to teach him how to lay down, make sure to use another cue or your pup will be confused. “Lay” works beautifully. The idea is to make sure you have different words for different behaviors, and you are consistent with their meaning.
If your dog is a blank slate, pick cue words that come naturally to you. If you have already “burnt out” a word by overusing it or being inconsistent, then pick something new so you can get a great response with fresh training.