Your Labrador’s Magic Word!


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.

magic-wordFBTasty chunks of warm roast chicken dripping in juices, or whole sardines canned in oil, are great examples.

The messier and tastier the better.

Once or twice each day, for several days, you will say your magic word.

And give your dog one of these fantastic prizes.

No conditions

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.

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”

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 weeing on your geraniums, or to stop 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 behaviours

Emergencies only

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?  Let us know in the comments box below

More help and information

If you enjoy Pippa’s articles, you will love her new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.


Previous articleWalking Your Labrador on a Loose Leash
Next articleLabrador Puppy Feeding FAQ
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.


  1. We have a beautiful black yearling who is very athletic. We use a couple of words in Spanish and French. Dogs can certainly learn foreign languages. 🙂

  2. What an absolutely wonderful idea.

    I have a six month old, male, blonde Labrador who is very obedient but I think I need a Magic Word for those once-off emergencies. My heart skips a beat every time a distraction causes him to deviate toward something unsafe. Getting him to stop and turn on the spot is exactly what I need.

    Thanks heaps for this advice.

    • I have commenced training my pup (Milo) with his magic word now. I actually chose the word “magic” for two reasons:
      1) It doesn’t pop up in conversations very often.
      2) It should be easy to remember as in “What is his magic word?” Oh yeah it’s magic!”

      Milo really loves his sardines dripping in oil.

      I am ready to progress to the next step of waiting until he is a few steps away and saying his magic word. The trouble is, I’m having difficulty getting a few steps away from him when I have the smelly treat in my hand. He has already associated the sound of me opening the container with his special treat—the snap as I open the plastic container brings him running from afar. Not that he is ever really far away form me. He is my little shadow.

      I think I’ll need to wrap the sardines in separate plastic bags or something.

  3. Sounds like an excellent idea. I will try it at once. My Apollo is a 3 yrs old choco uncastrated lab. Loves sport, a Frisbee pro, a great ball player and retriever and an enthusiastic swimmer and a great companion jogger. His only problem which I assume probably has something to do with being non castrated is that if given a chance he will roam to find scent of female dogs to lick and also of male dogs to pee over it. Often enough he will also find some poo to chuck it down before I get a chance to chase him away. Sometimes if I happen to be near enough and with a stern word NO, he will back off. I already have made a peace with myself to accept this gross behavior of him and not to make a big fuss. (He is dewormed every 3 months). But now the bigger problem is once he eats poo and he understands that he is not allowed. He knows that he does something wrong. Then he is afraid to come back to me because of being afraid of consequences. He will run off even further and I have to often get other dogs walkers nearby to help me recall him back to me. That is the biggest problem I am having with Apollo. I hope this trick of magic word will help. It is worth a try. I will let you know if it works

  4. Yes we made the mistake and our dog’s magic word is biscuit. The problem comes in when we are having biscuits and I ask my husband if he wants a biscuit my dog comes running. So now you have two mature adults going around the house asking each other if they want the B word so as to not get the dog going. LOL

  5. I have lab of 6 months old, his name is Prince. I tried the Magic word Johnny whenever he goes to my neighbours house or goes out of the house against my wish. I call him by name Prince he never pays heed..he simply wants us to take him that moment I call Johnny..he come running to me to take beef stick, which I use only against the name Johnny. Please give your views

  6. I have a chocolate colored labrador , her name is daisy , but i dont understand one of her problem her growth has suddenly stopped her age is 9 months but her body’s size is like a 5 month’s old puppy’s anyone knows what can i do ? please help !!

    reply to me at this email :- removed by editor

    • Hi Avisek, you need to consult your vet to find out why your Labrador is not growing. There could be many different reasons and he or she is the only capable of making such a diagnosis. Best wishes, Pippa

  7. wolf dogs can be flighty -and unlike most dogs are decision makers -to do or not do in obeying a command -by chance i discovered a word key , as she began to go walk about -at a fast trot -instead of giving a command she was unlikely to obey -i called in a shrill female voice -picnic time -she stopped dead in her tracks- turned-laughed made a decision came bounding back -and kissed me -i rewarded her with a bone -and this call i only use when she flee’s

  8. We use a magic word that you would not use in ordinary speech so that the dogs cannot be triggered by mistake. So our tip is to think of a word that is not used often in your household or in an exciting way.

  9. I have two 4 month old field bred Golden Retrievers. I use the magic word “cookie”. If I say this word my pups will do a whiplash turn to come to me and I can break up a play fight that is getting out of hand with this word as well. I use kibble and freeze dried liver at this stage of their development and this works well. Will mixing up treats of varying value lessen the effect of the magic word that I use down the road when the pups have grown and I’m trying to get their attention from further afield?

    • Hi Alexandra, it is fine (and indeed a good idea) to ‘fade’ rewards for a regular cue, such as a recall, but the idea of the magic word is that it is always associated with a high value reward, and never used on a regular basis. There is a lot of information on recall in the recall training centre in via the training menu at the top of each page.