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Sometimes your dog does things you don't agree with. Sometimes you come home from work after a long day only to find the trash can’s contents have been emptied and spread across your entire kitchen. Sometimes your dog eats an entire roll of toilet paper just because he misses you so. Sometimes when you go to sit on the couch, your dog is there first when he knows he doesn't belong there at all.
Most of these indiscretions are forgivable, but wouldn't it be nice if your dog could apologize to you? If you have a dog who likes to speak, barks or howls, or likes to mimic sounds, train him to say 'sorry'. You can also train non-verbal dogs to say sorry with sweet or timid gestures. And you can tell him he owes you an apology when he does something like make a poor choice.
Training your little guy to speak in word sounds will occur when he is open to mimicking noises and sounds you make. You may not get your dog to say a clear ‘S’ sound. But you can get him to say a sound that is very similar to 'sorry' and to understand when you require such an apology. Basically, you will be training your little guy to make syllable sounds that will mimic the word 'sorry'. This will take some practice, and because this word is two syllables, you may need to teach the first syllable first and the second syllable second before you combine them into what you know as one word.
Another way for your pup to say 'sorry' is for him to look down timidly as if in regret or to paw at you as if to reach out with an apology. A puppy is often easier to train than an adult dog, but consider teaching all basic obedience commands before trying this more advanced training no matter the age of your pup.
Because this is an advanced trick, you will need to train your dog in a quiet space where he can focus on the sound of your voice and not other distracting sounds around you. Be sure to have lots of tasty treats for your bud to earn as he learns to apologize to you with a sweet sorry. You'll want to keep your training sessions short yet engaging to make this fun for you both.
The Non-Vocal Method
Grab your dog’s attention and give him a treat. Have him sit and give him a treat. Ask your pup to lie down and give him a treat. This sets him up for a training session and rewards.
Say the command ‘say sorry,’ and hold another treat down toward your dog’s paw. He should be lying down, so he’ll need to look down to get to the treat.
Once his chin touches the floor, give him a treat.
Repeat this several times getting your pup to associate the command 'sorry' with the action of putting his chin down to the floor. Be sure to give him a treat each time he is successful.
Keep practicing asking your dog to say 'sorry' with only the command. His goal should be to lie down and put his chin to the floor with that remorseful look. Be sure to reward him with a treat. This will also be his forgiveness because he apologized.
When it’s appropriate for your dog to apologize, ask him to say sorry. Over time and with practice, he will know when he’s done something worthy of an apology and say sorry all on his own.
The Mimic Method
If you have a dog who will mimic or howl with you, you might be able to get him to vocalize his apology.
Sit with your dog when he’s behaving and spend some time training him. Start by howling and making sounds getting him to howl along with you.
When your dog is howling and talking with you making his own noises, start only saying the word 'sorry'. Keep practicing these sounds in effort to get him to repeat them.
Say a command like ‘say sorry,’ and wait for your dog to reply with his new word. If he doesn’t repeat the word, you can keep practicing, saying 'sorry' in the howling way you two practiced earlier.
Keep practicing this new word for your pup until he can say it by command. When he’s done something he should apologize for doing, use your command and ask him to say 'sorry'.
Be sure as he is learning and each time he says 'sorry', you give him a treat. This will take some time and effort from you both, so those rewards will go a long way in motivating him to keep learning and practicing.
The With Paw Method
Train your dog to say sorry with a sweet gesture of his paw touching you. This will look a lot a dog giving you his paw, but you can train him to do it when he’s made a poor choice.
Have your dog sit and give him a treat.
Start right away with your command ‘say sorry.’ Hold a treat in your hand but hide it from him. If you don’t have his attention, you can show him the hand and let him sniff the hidden treat.
Hold the treat at his chest level but out away from him. Be patient. He should eventually paw at your hand to get to the treat.
When he paws at your hand, use you ‘say sorry’ command again and give him the treat.
Repeat and practice this several times until he is pawing at your hand when you first use the command. He should do this several times before take the hand with the treat away.
Once he knows the words for the command and is familiar with the actions that go with the command, begin to use only the command without the hidden treat.
Anytime you ask your dog to say 'sorry', he should put his paw up to shake your hand or place it on your leg. Be sure you are accepting his apology by giving him a treat.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 04/17/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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