Whether an 8-week old puppy or a 4 year old rescue pup, building clear communication with your new family member is essential. The absolute first milestone, and all the steps that lead up to it, is teaching a dog their name.
Like I said, learning their name is the MILESTONE, a checkpoint. There are many steps in between that build the foundation of clear communication. It also teaches you, as a new owner, to learn what it means to "talk to your pet."
Before we get started there's few things to remember,
Dogs need an incentive to do something for you. Of course they love you and want to be with you, but they will not obey you for the "sake and righteousness of obedience" until they are much more mature in years. Just like us humans, if we are working and your spouse asks you to take out the trash, will you do it right away? or in a few minutes, when your more important task is finished? Ah- hah!
Whether you offer kibble, turkey meat, a new toy, or off-leash time, your pup will be motivated to listen and learn if they want something from you. From a young age these puppies need to experience that ALL THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE COME FROM YOU. Let me say that again, from the moment you bring your puppy/dog home, they need to understand that all the good things in life i.e. attention, food, playtime, come from the owner and not from their own efforts.
As well, remember that dogs DO NOT UNDERSTAND ENGLISH, or any human language. Keep this in mind when you are trying to communicate with your dog, think of them as a foreigner (or that you are the foreigner, either way works).
Choose your "yes" signal
Communicating with your dog is a lot like playing "hot & cold." Remember the game? You hide an object, let's say, under the couch. Your friend needs to find the object and walks around the house, guided only by your words, "warmer, warmer, cold! warmer, very warm, hot! hotter, boiling!" until you find the object.
The "YES" signal is the equivalent of "warmer," where you let your pet know that the action they just did was in the positive direction, it was good. The signal can be anything sound of your choosing, as long as it stands out from common speech and noises.
A sound: click, snap, beep, ding, etc.
+ easy to use
+ stands out more than other signals
+ the sound is consistent
- difficult to coordinate sometimes when your hands are full
- you won't always have one handy
A word, any language: "good," "ecco," "si," "da," "bravo," etc.
+ easy to use
+ stands out, we don't normally say "YES" in daily speech
- can be inconsistent, try to make your tone the same
- you more likely will speak too much (talked about later)