I Taught My Dog to Say YES… in a Different Language

All dogs can say yes, right? Ask your dog a question in a cheery voice and he’ll answer yes. How? By cocking his head, perking up his ears, wagging his tail, and perhaps dancing around (depending on what you ask).

Trooper saying yes in the traditional way.

Trooper saying YES in the standard doggie way.

My dog can do all those things. He can say YES in the standard doggie way. But he can also say YES another way.

He shakes. I’m not talking he shakes hands. He shakes. He shakes his entire body, just like he does when he gets out of the river or out of the shower.

It’s like he learned to say YES in another language.

We’re working on other tricks, too. Just for the fun of it. Like how to stretch, yawn, burp, sneeze, and scratch on command. And fart. Okay, not fart.

Here’s how it works, in case you want to have a little fun with your dog, too.

NOTICE YOUR DOG’S ACTIONS

Keep a close eye on your dog and notice some of the actions he does on a regular basis.

For my dog, it’s shaking, stretching, yawning, burping, sneezing, and scratching.

ENCOURAGE YOUR DOG’S ACTIONS

If your dog doesn’t do such actions all that often, try to encourage the actions.

My dog gets a bit embarrassed when we stare at him and his way of dealing with it, to get out of the uncomfortable situation of being stared at by his humans, is to stretch, yawn, burp, sneeze, or scratch, to busy himself with something else.

Realize that dogs can, and do, fake some of these bodily functions. I once had a black lab mix who, every morning, woke me up with the same sequence of events:  scratch (and noisily jingle his collar and tags at the same time), wait about thirty seconds, sneeze, wait another thirty seconds, yawn (and end it with an obnoxiously loud squeaking sound).

My current dog, Trooper, will come into the bathroom immediately upon me sitting down on the toilet. I give him a nice pat and then a nice stare. He starts blinking, looking around, feeling uncomfortable, then proceeds to stretch (front legs out straight, behind up in the air), stretch again (back legs straight out behind him), followed with a yawn, burp, sneeze, or scratching.

To encourage the shaking action, throw your dog in a lake.

To encourage sneezing, put a little pepper in his nose.

For scratching, turn him over and find that sweet spot on his belly that gets that involuntary scratch action going.

For farting, feed him lots of unique foods, like bean burritos, cheese, and asparagus.

LABEL YOUR DOG’S ACTIONS

Choose a label, or command, for each of the actions your dog likes to do. When you catch him doing one of the actions, say the word loud and clear.

For example, if your dog stops and scratches his ear, say, “SCRATCH!” Then, “GOOD SCRATCH!” (For this particular one, it’d be best to wait until the ear scratching is done because the dog probably won’t be able to hear you while he’s flopping his ear all over the place or if he, like my old black lab mix, likes to make music with his collar and tags.

It’s okay to start labeling several of your dog’s actions around the same time. However, when it comes time to ask him to do these things on command you’ll want to concentrate on just one at a time.

This is similar to training your dog to sit or lie down. When you see him drop into a sit or you push him into a sit, you say, “SIT, GOOD SIT” until the dog associates the word with his action.

NOTICE WHEN YOUR DOG STARTS TO ASSOCIATE A LABEL WITH HIS ACTION

Determine if there is one action, more than the others, that your dog tends to do and if he is starting to associate your label/command with his action.

My dog goes on a lot of outdoor adventures with me and gets either really muddy or really dusty. He also sleeps on my bed while I am away. So I hose him down or take him in the shower with me often so that my bed will stay clean. I want him to shake the excess water off, but I want him to do it at appropriate times, like while he’s still in the tub behind the shower curtain and not so much when he jumps out into the main part of the bathroom. Or, I want him to shake most of the water off while he’s still outside and not upon running into the house.

So my dog was getting a lot of baths, there was a whole lot of shaking going on, and I said, “SHAKE, GOOD SHAKE” enough times that he started to understand that SHAKE meant shake. (He’s brilliant, as you can tell.)

SAY THE RECOGNIZED LABEL AND ENCOURAGE YOUR DOG TO DO THE ASSOCIATED ACTION

Once your dog knows that shake means shake, or roll over means roll over, try saying the command when he is not in the act of doing the associated action.

Trooper's shaking action is a new, more sophisticated, way to say YES

Trooper’s shaking action is a new, more sophisticated, way to say YES.

I tried the SHAKE command a few times one day while I had my dog out for a run. He’s always happy and can feel the major bonding that happens between us while we’re running, which makes him more conducive to obeying. So I tried it and he did it! He coordinated running alongside me and shaking his entire body at the same time. I praised him – “GOOD SHAKE” – and let him know that that was definitely what he was supposed to do every time I said SHAKE.

Well, not counting when I said SHAKE and wanted him to shake hands with me. But, that’s advanced stuff there, the ability to differentiate whether the situation calls for whole body shaking or just front paw shaking. It’s really only appropriate for highly gifted dogs.

A great way to encourage your dog to do the action on command is to hold his favorite treat right in front of his face while saying the command.

COMMAND YOUR DOG TO DO THE ACTION RIGHT AFTER ASKING A QUESTION

Now you are ready to teach your dog to say YES in the new language. Not just perked up ears, cocked head, wagging tail, turning circles on the linoleum floor. Your dog can now say yes by shaking, burping, stretching, whatever.

Use your most cheery, “of course you want to do this” voice when asking questions. Follow each question with the command and try to get your dog to follow through.

For example:

“Do you want to eat? SHAKE.” As soon as he shakes, feed him.

“Do you want to go outside? SHAKE.” When he shakes, open the door and let him out.

“Do you want to vacuum? SHAKE.” When he shakes, chase him around the house with the scary vacuum.

WARNING

You may end up with a dog who is constantly shaking, burping, farting, whatever his happy action is that now means YES.

If you came to my house and sat and observed my dog (and didn’t know anything about this professional training I’ve been doing with him), you might think he had a tic, a brain tumor, or bugs in his ears. He spends a lot of time shaking, staring at me and shaking, saying YES, YES to anything, YES to everything. YES, I want to eat. YES, I want to go outside. YES, I want you to pet me, just in case you were thinking about doing that. YES, we should go for a ride in the car. YES, I want to go on a run. YES, I’m excited for kayak season. YES, I want to sit next to you on the couch.

My poor, twitching, quaking dog. What have I done to him?

ANOTHER WARNING

No one will believe you that you taught your dog to say YES in this way. You’ll need a witness. Or you’ll need to show him off once he gets really good.

I have my younger daughter. She loves to mess with the dog just as much as I do. She has helped me with his training.

She asks him questions and expects him to answer. She sees how he says YES—YES, YES, YES—to everything before we even have a chance to ask it. And she was there in the kitchen with me the night the dog wandered in and I said, “Oh, Trooper, did you spend the entire day on my bed?” And he shook, shook with all his might.

Others may be skeptical, but not us, we’ve seen his total transformation into a big furry ball of shaking, quaking affirmative action.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. farfetchedfriends
    Oct 27, 2013 @ 11:50:22

    Oh that’s hilarious! I love it!

    Pierre is constantly touching me with his paw and since that’s him being dominant, I certainly don’t want to encourage it. His fake yawns (also a sign of dominance, sigh) are regular occurrences, too…and heck if I’m going to catch his yawns all day. Hmmm…I will have to come up with something. 🙂

    Reply

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