I went into a store a while back. The store clerk started wiggling her fingers at the dog I had with me. She shrieked, patted her legs. When the puppy came rushing toward her, she took it upon herself to correct the dog. She gave what is called a verbal correction. “Ack! Ack!”
I expect better from pet store employees. They are supposed to be professionals. If you wiggle, squiggle and sound like a squeaky toy, expect the dog to run over. Don’t like it? Go look in the mirror and “Ack!” yourself.
Personally, I am not fond of verbal corrections. I prefer teaching a leave it command to the dog. While teaching a skill, I might withhold the treat to communicate that the dog has not gotten things quite right.
I don’t have too many moral or ethical dilemmas with verbal reprimands. The one exception would be sensitive dogs that cower at loud noises. Think puppy mill dogs that might be out for remedial socialization. One minute a stranger is happily encouraging them closer and “ACKKK! ACKKK!” It is rather mean.
This is why pet professionals – including store clerks – should know and do better. They should know that puppy mills exist and that customers in the store potentially could have a sensitive puppy mill rescue.
Interacting without permission violates a rule in the pet world. Ask permission first. In my opinion, it should be a sacred law. It is my dog. I know its history. Ask.
However, the real reason I tend to dislike verbal corrections is that they are….annoying. That is right. I think they are irritating. “Acccck…acccckkkk….acccckkkk!” I think if the store clerk does it next time, I will ask her if she has a hairball.
Really, these verbal corrections just do not make much sense. “Ack” sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball. Most dogs do not see that as discouraging. They’ll want to know if you have a cat hidden in your bra.
Then there is “Baaaahhhh.” To me, that sounds like a sheep. Don’t Border Collies and other herding breeds like to chase sheep? How does one logically explain that sounding like a sheep would be punishing or corrective to a dog?
What about “Shhhhhtt”? Dogs think that snakes are fun to chase, catch and shake. Why would I want to sound like that?
Finally, there is “Eh eh eh,” an oldie but a goodie. Our barnyard of animal sounds has moved to goats or ducks. It sounds a lot like my dog’s stuffed toy duck. I think dogs would find that highly entertaining.
Why is this annoying? Imagine learning or teaching a new skill. Perhaps a child doing times table drills.
Teacher: What is 3 x 4?
Ack! Ack! Ack!
I can tell you what most people would do under those circumstances. They would tell the teacher to shut up, or laugh behind their backs. And yes, the sensitive kids would cower and quit. There is no need to go to verbal reprimands when mistakes are made. The words, “Try again” are just as effective at communicating that an error has been made.
Yes, I know that all of us, at one time or another wind up with some barnyard noise flying out of our mouths unintentionally. That is different from doing it intentionally – planning on sounding like prey. I’m not sure who originally came up with the idea. It seems to lack a certain sense of logic. Dogs do not make any of these sounds. They bark and growl. And no, I do not really want to see people barking at their dogs either.
I cannot help but wonder if dogs are cringing or laughing on the inside. I know which one my dog is doing. Verbally correct him, and he is going to try to find out where you are hiding the cats, ducks, snakes and sheep. You have become a squeaky toy. You have just rewarded my dog. That is something that I object to, and find …. annoying.