Every Labrador should have a magic word. “What kind of trickery is this?” you say. We don’t need magic in dog training do we? Just an effective and consistent training strategy. Of course you are right, but a ‘magic word’ is still a very useful thing. And here’s how you can use it:
What is the magic word used for?
We can use a magic word to interrupt a dog when it is doing something we don’t want it to do. The magic word brings your dog dashing to your side, so it can also be used as an emergency recall
How do we create our magic word?
To generate your magic word you will need some amazing treats.
Once or twice each day, for several days, you will say your magic word. And give your dog one of these fantastic prizes.
You won’t ask the dog to do anything in return. The food is totally unconditional. All you want is for him to associate this word with an astounding experience.
The first few times you give your dog the treat, go and find him. Say your word and feed him straight away.
You don’t want any delay at all in getting the food into his mouth immediately after he hears the word. When he has heard the magic word a few times, you can start to say the word when he is a few feet away from you.
After the first few days, and once your dog is ‘on board’ with the deliciousness of this brilliant word, you can use your word less often. Twice a week should keep it special and ensure he does not forget it. Think of this as ‘charging up’ your word. Just as you would charge up a battery from time to time. And make it easy for your dog to respond.
Choosing a word
Your word should be upbeat, cheerful and inspiring. Words like ‘hooray’, ‘awesome’, ‘eureka’, that type of thing. Choose one and stick to it. The word is a little celebration of a splendid treat. And it should sound that way. It means “something awesome and utterly unmissable is about to happen”
Most Labradors can understand many words. But very often that understanding is quite specific to a context. For example, a lot of dogs won’t ‘sit’ if you turn your back on them when you give the command sit. They only understand the word sit if you are facing the dog.
To make sure your magic word is understood anywhere and everywhere, remember to charge it up in different situations. And from different positions (you can sit in a chair sometimes, or stand on one leg)
Using the word
Be careful. This is not a command. Don’t use it to spoil his fun. Don’t use your magic word to recall your dog, stop him peeing on your lawn, or to prevent him climbing on your sofa on a regular basis.
Each time you use the word to bring your dog away from something he wanted for himself you deplete a little of its power. You make it just that little bit less magical. So do not use your word on a regular basis, or to repeatedly try and trigger particular behaviors
Save your magic word for that awful time when your dog slips his lead and is about to run into the road. Save it for that walk on the beach when he finds a dead seagull and is about to eat it.
Save it for the day he rolls in fox poo and is about to embrace your mother-in-law, or climb on her white sofa. Save it for special and unusual occasions. Call out your magic word and feel the relief as your dog spins around and dashes towards you.
After using your magic word
When you have used your word, you need to ‘re-charge it’. You need to make it really special again. Don’t use the word to interrupt your dog in something he enjoys for some time. And for the next few days, make sure you just say the word several times, together with an amazing treat, no strings attached.
How about you?
Do you have a magic word for your dog? Can you think of any situations where you would use a magic word? Let us know in the comments box below
Have fun with dog training. Modern dog training is a lot of fun. Methods have changed dramatically over the years and force free dog training has now been adopted by all leading dog trainers. The great thing about force free training is that you don’t need any ‘talent’ or natural ability. And neither does your dog.
Did you know?
Of course there are techniques you need to learn in order to train your dog successfully.
Together with the Dogsnet training team, I have now launched an online dog training program to help people homeschool their dogs without force. You can now enroll in my online training courses and learn to be your dog’s best teacher. I hope to see you there soon!
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website