Non Verbal Training

So…… I’ve been going on and on about Kayce Cover’s methods. And, if you;ve been following along then you know that involves a lot of talking. Like a TON of it. In fact…. in all of her method it’s the part that catches the most objections. I even wrote an article trying to explain how I think it might work.


I also believe that there’s value in training with the old school “Koehler Duct Tape” over ones mouth. I’ve realized the impprtance of body language fluency for a long time. But, lately it’s REALLY been bubbling up to the front of my brain.

I have been a Koehler Long Line Foundation fan for a long time. And, that involves a bit of “shuttin up” to have the desired effect.

Score 1 for non verbal.

Then….. although a huge fan of Kayce’s Conditioned Relaxation, I have run into some resistance on some more gamey combative dogs. One of her long time students. and most vocal advocates, Mark McCabe reminded me of an old protocol I had gotten away from, once I found Kayce’s more “direct” method. This method sometimes called “Sit On The Dog” (the worlds stupidest name) essentially, is sitting with your dog and teahing them to be calm and still when you’re calm and still. Although I don’t stay with it forever, and want to get to the more direct, communicative, active conditioned relaxation that Kayce teaches…… It turns out to be a good, simple first step.

Score 2 for non verbal.

Then……. On the way to teach a Tug Seminar last week, I was deep in dog training thought. I was watching an Ellis DVD that I have watched a 1,000 times. And, I heard him say that “If we were really taking our time, we would do a non verbal out UNTIL they’re fluent THEN name it. Just like we do positions with food” (paraphrase)

That struck something.

I have made my little contribution to the dog training world by suggesting that instead of fading the “dead toy” signal off the verbal command for out, that we just “separate” them. Keep a verbal only out, of course…… But, also keep a non verbal, body language out. This is a lifestyle training thing. I like to help the dog remember that a sudden stillness from a being is them asking for the cessation of activity. That makes a dog much more fluent in interactions with other beings!

But, I always split them AFTER teaching the out with both a verbal AND dead toy.  Ive always said if your game was good, you don’t need words.

As I was teahing that workshop I kept hearing myself say “The words don’t matter till you teach them”, and “Body language drives the game, till they learn the words”. And, as always….. Spent a LOT of time trying to get people to match their words to their actions.

Then, it hit me…..

Teach it non verbally FIRST.

Then, all the person has to do is focus on the movement. And not get distracted with a bunch of other stuff. Get your game clean….. THEN…. name everything.

Score 3 for non verbal.

I always felt like when I meet a dog, i just want to hang out. Observe. Not ask them for a ton. Just let them be. And be “with”.

Everyone has heard the old “No touch. No talk. No eye contact” rule. But a lot of other trainers are stating to suggest things along the same line. Cesar Milan. Suzanne Clothier. Nelson Hodges. Margot Woods. Bill Koehler. Mark McCabe. All different trainers from different backgrounds, suggesting a non verbal approach.

But….. How does that gel with the other big influences in my world view that are leaning towards MORE cognition? MORE language?

I think I have reconciled it in my head.

I’m not ready to commit to it as being “My official protocol” or whatever. But…… It’s really starting to gel in my mind that way.

First- Be with your dog. Learn how your body language and behavior effects them. Become observant. Learn to speak THEIR language. (I have been experimenting with this and getting HUGE results!)

Then- Teach them your language. Teach them the words that name and explain the interactions you are already fluently having.

After you are BOTH fluent in each others language…… Then, you can get to a level of communication that will seem unreal.

Whether that’s using so many words people think there’s no way it’s possible.


In complete silence!

Experiment for yourself.

I still am.

2 thoughts on “Non Verbal Training”

  1. Would like to give a thumbs up. When I bring in a new dog to my home I do usually just start by spending time with them, go on a walk and observe their issues, what makes them tick. Trying to really hear them, before I start teaching them. But need to learn more about Kayce Kover and some of the other trainers you listed here. Thanks!

  2. Nice, Jay.

    I’m curious about: “Become observant. Learn to speak THEIR language. (I have been experimenting with this and getting HUGE results!)”. Sounds like a great future blog post. 😉

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