Anna Webb – Broadcaster, Author, has studied natural nutrition and therapies with the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT). She lives in London and is owned by Prudence a Miniature Bull Terrier and Mr Binks, a re-homed English Toy Terrier. www.annawebb.co.uk
Puppy love or is it cupboard love?
As a timely reminder that January is Walk Your Dog Month, a recent study revealed that your pooch’s favourite word actually is: ‘walkies”! It beats food related words like ‘dinner’, ‘food’, ‘eat’, even ‘treat.
In a bid to investigate how we’ve been getting on with our four-legged best friends through the pandemic, the study explored how Britain’s pooches responded to words and phrases.
A survey of over 4,000 pet parents compiled the key words, experts then analysed the comparative heart rates of each dog once these words or phrases were spoken.
Based on an average resting heart rate of 115 BPM, the word ‘walkies’ is the most ‘paw-rific’. It raised the average heart rate to 156 BPM, or by a whopping 38 per cent.
Proof of cupboard love, food related words like dinner raised Britain’s pooches heart rates to 152 BPM or by 32 per cent.
Saying ‘treat’ raised excitement to 151 BPM or by 31 per cent to take the third place in the tail wagging test.
At the bottom end of the scale were phrases including: ‘shall we go home” and ‘come on then’, with a shockingly low average BPM count at 100 BPM.
But what about training words like ‘rollover’, ‘paw’ or ‘find it’? These seemed to barely raise heart rates at all!
Perhaps what the study is unexpectedly revealing is that we’re not spending enough time training dogs to do what they might not think they want to do.
Could we be missing a trick? In my book words used for training like ‘come on then’ should raise heart rates the most.
It’s the cue that delivers praise, your attention and high value treats. It’s combining the third most tail wagging word, ‘treat’, to achieve the most important training command – to come here.
Besides if your doggy reliably comes when he’s called, the reward is more time off lead to benefit from the most favourite word – ‘walkies’.
Similarly training tricks using words like ‘paw’ and ‘rollover’, both yielded a disappointing 117 BPM and 100 BPM respectively.
Most responsive breeds
The study also investigated if certain breeds were more responsive to training commands than others.
Interestingly the top five eager learners were: Frenchies, Beagles, Rottweilers, Labradors and the Dachshund.
In pole position Frenchie’s average heart raised by 28 per cent doing fun games, followed closely by Beagles at 26 per cent.
Could this imply that Frenchie’s attract pet parents than know the limitations of cupboard love and the value of training?
Overall the Labrador took the biscuit as the best allrounder, responding both to training, walkies and foodie words on average by 21 per cent. And the Dachsie did well with an impressive 18 per cent rise in heart rate to training words.
I believe that when you turn your dog’s world into a game based on rules and team work, you’ve hit the jackpot in relationship building, developing focus and communication.
Science concurs that the way to your dog’s heart is not through his stomach, but through having fun together, and asking your dog to ‘work’ for his food rewards.