Friday Fun With Phraseology

I read post on 24 Paws of Love recently that I thought was kind of interesting. In the article, the writer talked about several of the words, phrases, and signals she has inadvertantly taught her dogs. Before now, I’d never really thought about some of the words Shiva has learned just through repetition. There are the standard cues, obviously, the ones you teach on purpose, but there are also many phrases dogs just pick up after hearing them over and over again in very specific contexts. I thought it might be kind of fun to share some of ours as well.

 “Chill” – (can also be “chill out” or “chhiiiiilllllll”) Meaning: You are way too excited over nothing, please calm down before I do something I regret.

True to our 90’s selves, we have used this word from the very start, normally just out of exasperation. After all of these years, Shiva seems to get what we’re saying and ceases her whining and jumping around. Albeit, only temporarily. I should probably start reinforcing this more.

“All the way” – (can also be, “really, Sheeves, really?) Meaning: All the way down, no halvsies.

Shiva is such a cheater sometimes, especially when we tell her to lay down. It’s her least favourite position. She will often try to fool us by only crouching or ducking her head. When I say “all the way” she will often suck it up and put her stomach on the floor. This isn’t really a cue I am proud of as “down” should just mean down. It’s one of the many ways she has shaped me better than I have shaped her.

“Keep going” – Meaning: Yep, you are on the right track.

I was surprised when Shiva proved she knew what this meant. We use this a lot when working on tricks like leg weaves or backing up. It helps encourage her movement, let’s her know she is offering the right thing. When I say it Shiva’s eyes will light up and she’ll leap into warp drive.

“Ahem” – Meaning: Hello? I’m waiting!

When we are out on a walk, or even in agility class, and Shiva loses focus, I will stop to wait for her to come back to my side. Once she feels any tension on the leash she is usually pretty good at remembering herself and jumps back to sit beside me. We have worked on this a lot. But, because she is a cheater (see above), she will sometimes only come halfway back before sitting down. “Ahem” is a reminder of the position she needs to be in before we can move on.

“Out of the garbage!” – (can also be “you are in big trouble, missy!”) Meaning: Get out of the garbage.

Okay, so we kind of trained this one on purpose. Sometimes I feel a little bad about it because she usually will dive towards her crate to give herself a time-out. Not that it stops her from going back to the bin the next chance she gets. We need to invest in something with a lock.

Do you have any silly phrases your dogs have picked up on over the years?

Happy Friday!

40 thoughts on “Friday Fun With Phraseology

  1. Honey is very sensitive to the word(?) “ehhhh” in a short clipped manner. She doesn’t need much (in low stimulation environments) to redirect from bad behavior.

    BTW, my husband bought me a super, dog proof trash can for my birthday one year. It’s metal and has a foot pedal. It can be attached to your wall so it doesn’t get knocked over and it has a clasp that can be locked with a padlock in case your dog is really motivated. I think he spent over $200 on it (right before we lost our last dumpster diver and haven’t needed it since).

    I guess I should have known when I got the trash can that the romance was dead. 🙂


  2. my biggest one I use is “easy” this is for Fred when he is about to push my patience over the line when I am working with him..mostly on walking when he is pulling.

    I use “easy” with Haylie when she is around children, she wants to lick them to death.


  3. Your phrases are great!!

    I have a few with Leroy. “Step Off” which means you are in my space and stepping on my slippers, so please lay down”
    “Zip It” which means stop barking out the window at nothing.
    “WTH” which means what the hell are you doing, which always makes him stop and look at me.


  4. Sometimes (like Pamela) I just say, “Eh.” Other times I suck in my breath and make a little “huh” sound; this would be your version of “Ahem.”

    Lately I just throw my hands up in the air in frustration and look at her and Delilah sits.

    I would still really love for your “stay” and “down” tips. Would you consider writing a post for my blog?


    • Practice, practice, practice. Reward, reward, reward. 😉 I know, that’s not what you want to hear. And the 3 D’s: Distance, duration, distraction. Work on them separately at first before ever expecting your dog to handle all three at the same time. I could certainly try to write something for you but I am not a dog trainer, just the human of a crazy mutt!

      LOL. I love how throwing up your hands has become Delilah’s visual signal. Now that is shaping at its finest!


  5. This is great! I’m looking forward to other’s responses.
    Ok, so I have a bit of a potty mouth… good thing Stumpy can’t talk back (although I amsure I read the words in her eyes
    WTF and GTFO, both the acronym and the longer version
    Your f’n kidding me
    You little sh**
    Her response to these is always the same. She heads for jail, which she would do if iI told her to go to jail.

    GAH! seems like there should be a positive one, in there. It’snot like she’s always in trouble!

    Happy, Waggin’ Tails, FUREVER!
    Stumpy and me


    • Heh, I know what you mean. Most of the ones I could think of were negative as well. It’s how the human brain works, apparently. I am sure there is something you say or do when Stumpy does something well that she instantly recognizes. Eveb if you don’t!


  6. This is cracking me up. 🙂 I think someone is gettin played, and it’s not Shiva.

    It’s funny – I was thinking about this same subject today, except not phrases, but routines and mannerisms. My dogs seem to be able to read me like a book sometimes – and it’s freaky. 😉 I’m writing something today about one of Dewi’s quirky mannerisms (that has me trained) and I’ll be linking back to this post.


    • Thanks!

      Actually, we have noticed that as well. When we order something for delivery Shiva somehow knows it and will head straight for her crate even before the person knocks at the door. It’s very strange. Neither of us can figure out how she just knows someone is coming. Next time we are really going to have to pay attention to what visual cues we might be giving. Dogs are insanely observant of every little move, aren’t they?


  7. I frequently use “Who did that?” with four dogs. It’s meaningless because the same dogs always look guilty and the other ones look like “What?”


  8. oh my gosh, desmond definitely knows, “i’ll wait” as in, “i gave you a command and you are ignoring me but i know you know it and are just being a jerk.” also, “slow down” when we’re jogging and i can’t keep up. and “belly rubs!” which we always yell when he’s rolled over and we’re giving him belly rubs, so now if you say it, he will expose more of his gut for you to rub up on.


    • Awww, I love the belly rubs idea! That is so cute. You have turned it into a trick!

      I like the “I’ll wait” as well. I may have to steal that. 😉


  9. Sophie has picked up on chill and all the way too (Her and Shiva are very similar!) I also inadvertently taught her :
    nose up: stop sniffing and focus
    readddy: amps her up for a run
    I am sure there are more but that is all I can think of right now 🙂
    PS: The name/email/site was filled in with someone else’s info when I got to the site to leave a comment.


    • We use the word ready a lot as well. So much that I don’t say it unless I am prepared for a maniac running around the room. It works perfectly for agility, or flyball, I would imagine.


  10. Knock it off- can be used in any of the 7 billion ridiculous/annoying things they do.- often at Kayloo for practically ripping my arm off in an attempt to get at something rotting on the ground.

    Dude!- Generally @ Mickey for being on the couch. He usually gets off.

    Slow down!- As Kayloo races down the stairs, I say this and she usually slows down so she doesn’t bail on the laminate flooring at the bottom (she’s learned this pretty fast… bailing is a powerful motivator)


    • Hahahaha! I wish bailing was as powerful around here! Shiva has frequently taken a nose dive as she chases a ball, or the cat, down the laminate stairs. I cringe every time I hear her body whack against the front door. She always bounces back as she feels no pain, but I worry for her future! Maybe I’ll need to teach this cue on purpose.


  11. I use a Lot of the ones you mention, though not always for the same thing. “Skootch ” makes gwynn move out of the way of doors or drawers I’m opening, or just out of my way. And “psssst” seems to be “look at me! “


  12. Awesome, I am so glad I am not the only one with “creative” commands. Sometimes our trainer just looks at me and shakes her head.

    We use the 90s classic “chill” an awful lot too, with our added variation of “chillax, dude” being very effective.

    They also respond to “knock it off” and who needs “quiet” or “hush” when you can use the classy and reliable alternative of “cram it”?


  13. Bella somehow realized that when my husband and I were talking about it being 6 o’clock that it meant dinnertime. So if one us says something about it being 6 o’clock, she hops up and starts dancing around her food bowl. 🙂

    Also, when we say “go to your cave” she goes under the bench at the end of our bed.


    • Aww, go to your cave, that is so sweet.

      I love it when they pick up on things you aren’t even aware you were saying. Shiva doesn’t know the word “walk” which I thought was weird after all this time. Don’t most dogs understand what that means? Then I realized it’s because I hardly ever use the word myself. If I am going to take her for a walk, I usually will say the word “out” instead, as in “do you need to go out?” or “It’s time to go out!”. And those are the words that get her leaping up and running to the door.

      It’s kind of cool.


  14. Kristine – I read your post yesterday morning while on my way to work and then spent the rest of the day trying to figure out if there were any words I had inadvertently taught my dogs besides the usual sit, stay and come.

    Here is what I came up with…

    Off you go – It’s pretty literal, but it essentially means go lay down.
    Are you hungry? – Dinnertime
    Uh. Uh. Uh. – No

    That’s it! Should I have more?


    • No, there are no rules! But I bet you have more than you aren’t even aware of. Dogs pick up on the craziest things!


  15. I’ve got a few,

    move your bum, if either or both are in my way,
    me first, for going through doors or gates,
    Ummm, would be the same as your Ahem,
    move over please, to Frankie if he’s sitting in the drivers seat of my car or on the floor in front of the drivers seat
    tea time, Frankie goes and lies in Beryl’s crate and she goes and lies on their mattress in the lounge

    There are probably plenty more but it’s hard to actually think of them!


  16. We pretty much talk to Cali like she is human and we swear she understands most of it! “out of my kitchen” “go lay on your bed” “up on your seat” (in the car. . We have a minivan and she lays on the back seat). I use “EH” with her when we are out on walks and she tries to eat kitty crap snacks 🙂 She automatically stops whatever she is doing, “it’s Friday!” means she gets a special treat and she does a little dance 🙂 If I say “let me see your belly” she will lay down and roll onto her back (from years of checking her belly for hives when she is itchy!). We told her once that Papa (my hubby’s dad) and she got excited every time she saw a man with white hair!

    Okay, I’ll stop now . . Before you all figure out that I spend way too much time talking to my dog!


    • Oh geez, I was trying to type that on my iPad (I don’t understand why it seems so much harder!) That was supposed to say . .”We told her once that Papa was coming to visit” .. .


    • I love how you have turned these creative phrases into tricks. We have been working on getting Shiva to expose her belly on cue, just for fun, and now I think I have the perfect verbal. I also love the whole “it’s Friday” dance! That’s awesome. Cali is very talented.


  17. I WISH Our Best Friend responded to “untrained” stuff. After 2 1/2 years, he still doesn’t know what “quiet” means.

    But there are a few words he responds to. We have to spell the following words:


    And I think he’s learning to spell.


  18. Not so much a phrase, but when any of my 4 dogs are hovering around and I’m tired of them bugging me, I wave by open hands at them and they know that means to go lay down and leave me alone.


  19. How about “that’s none of your business” when they bark or look at something the neighbors are doing. “Time to go to work” means go to your kennel. “No icky stuff” we live on a farm, nuff said. “Smile” when our lab is on her back she bares her teeth at you. Very cute.


  20. There are loads of phrases and even physical actions that have meaning here.

    “Go to your room” = get in your crate

    “Use the steps” = I am not lifting you onto the bed, walk up the steps that take up half my room if you want up here.

    “In the (name of room)” = While you are running around barking your head off while we move dogs around, would you please go in the stated room?

    “Leave the kitty” = seems self-explanatory but has had the opposite effect. Much to the cat’s dismay.

    The sound of Velcro being ripped apart signals a chance to go outside. This is not because I have shoes fastened with Velcro but because my oldest dog sometimes wears a belly band.

    If only I were as talented at deliberately teaching behaviors as I am at inadvertently teaching them.


  21. Haha! OMG – I also have the “all the way down” down command in Bella’s repertoire. I think it’s in the DNA of hyper dogs that down is *such* a chore.

    We also find ourselves using it for the ‘front’ command which, with my husband usually ends with her standing in front of him but with me she doesn’t get the treat until she’s sitting in front of me. Poor little thing has to figure out the nuance of who’s saying what in our house. :]


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