Training a dog is a difficult task. We admire your efforts and recognize that it is one of the major responsibilities of a dog owner. It takes time, care, and consistency to teach dogs how to exist in the world, socialize with people, and urinate outside.
Professional dog trainers can help you bridge the gap between your abilities as a dog parent and your puppy’s accomplishments. One such trainer is Hannah Gillihan. Gillihan, a Certified Dog Trainer at Zoom Room Dog Training, values pet parents who participate in their pets’ education. She’s simply begging you to quit saying “Okay.”
It’s no surprise that we use the word “OK” so frequently throughout training sessions. The issue is that this word functions as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and exclamation. It covers a lot of ground.
“Many people and trainers use it as a release word or to get their dogs to do something they want,” Gillihan told us. “But really, humans say the word ‘OK all the time without even realizing it!”
Gillihan noted that she sees this a lot among Zoom Room training session participants, so don’t feel terrible or panic if you’ve used it as a specific sequence.
Why Should Dog Owners Stop Using “OK”?
Gillihan was not subtle when discussing this word. “One of the biggest phrases in dog training that I think should be banned completely is the word ‘OK,’” she said.
The biggest issue is it confuses dogs and can set them back when it comes to training.
For example, if you’ve designated “OK” as your release word, and you say something like, “OK, I have to text Mom back,” your dog will believe they’ve been freed, and you may be unaware you’ve used the magic word.
What to Say Instead
Instead of using a simple word like “OK,” Gillihan suggested terms like “release,” “free,” or phrases like “to me.”
“[These] are far better release words than ‘OK,’ because we don’t use them often, so they are easily recognizable and distinct,” Gillihan said. “Having a specific, unique release word will help your dog better understand when they are supposed [to] get up from their ‘wait’ or ‘stay’ or ‘go to your mat.’”
Another Practice to Avoid
Many dog owners say “leave it” when they don’t want their dog to eat anything from the floor or put a shoe in their mouth. The key here is to follow through. Gillihan said she’s witnessed dog owners shout, “Leave it!” to their dog and then give it to the dog seconds later. You can’t say no to a toy and then quickly change your mind. This is illogical.
“If you want your ‘leave it’ to really stick, you must treat it like whatever you are telling your dog to ‘leave,’ will kill them!” Gillihan said. “You should never give your dog the thing you are telling them to leave—ever. This will create a sort of, ‘I can ignore it now, but I’ll sneak and get it later,’ mentality with your dog, even if you don’t realize it.”
Rather than using “leave it” for anything you don’t want your dog to put in its mouth, try phrases like “wait for me” or “not yet.” These should be reserved for toys, treats and other items that are safe for your dog or that you will eventually deliver to your dog yourself. “Dogs are sneaky! You may think that they know to leave it alone, but the second you walk away, they’re going for that item, because they are used to getting it later anyway,” added Gillihan.
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