Chances are, when you’re cooing to Fido, all he’s hearing is, “Blah, blah, blah.” Stop annoying everyone around you—and learn to speak his language.
Step 1: Be consistent Be consistent with the meaning you want to attach to the word you use. For example, when you say, 'Fido, down,' decide in advance if it’s going to mean, 'Get off Aunt Ethel,' or, 'Lie down.'
Step 2: Give one-word commands Give commands one at a time, in one-word increments, such as 'Come,' 'Sit,' and 'Down.' If you say, 'Fido, come sit down,' he’s not going to know what the heck you want him to do.
TIP: Always use your dog’s name before issuing a command.
Step 3: Watch your body language Watch your body language, because your dog will process that message, not what you’re saying. If you’re visibly tense, it won’t matter if you’re saying, 'I love you.' Fido will sense you’re troubled and he’ll become anxious, too.
TIP: The more intelligent the dog, the more adept he will be at reading your emotional state.
Step 4: Learn how to read your dog Learn how to read your dog. It’s a common misconception that a dog’s doleful stare is a sign of adoration or a plea for food. Actually, it’s an act of aggression. Fido’s not begging for food; he’s demanding it!
TIP: Putting a paw on a person’s knee is a sign of dominance, not the friendly pat many dog owners believe it to be.
Step 5: Watch your tone Watch your tone when speaking to your dog. For example, use your high-pitched, 'What fun we’re going to have!' voice when you’re entering the vet’s office. If you sound apprehensive, you’ll just scare him, no matter how nurturing your words.
TIP: Taking a deep yawn in front of your dog will have a calming effect on him.
Step 6: Speak his language Speak to your dog in his language. To say 'hello,' sniff toward his nose. To bid adieu, swish your hand downward and turn your back. Tell him it’s time to play by getting on all fours and patting the ground.
FACT: Dogs understand as many as 140 words and gestures--roughly the same number as a two-year-old child.