Everything in language (including “Dog-lish” — the international dog training language) is based on associations. And even if we have prior associations with a word, if those associations are not maintained properly, then the word will lose it’s meaning– or association. Or it can take on a different association.
Ever been in a relationship where the words, “I love you” no longer hold any meaning? In some parts of the world, you can tell a person, “Go jump in a lake” [insert local expletive] … and the response will garner a chuckle and some back-slapping and maybe a complimentary beer. Whereas in other parts of the world, those same words may garner a challenge to a duel. Here’s my advice: Start consciously designing the words you use with your dog TODAY, and consistently attach the associations you want with those words so your dog will learn in a few days– or sometimes– in only a few minutes–that your commands (your words) have meaning.
Now, you may be wondering about tonation? The tone is of minor importance. As a general rule, you should use high tones for praise and lower tones for commands and correction words. But I can say “No!!!” in a low throaty growl, and if I toss your dog a piece of filet mignon, I can guarantee that by the end of the session, you can do your best to sound low and “growly” … and your dog will still wag his tale and smile at you and bounce around happily, thinking that he’s just done the ‘right thing.’ Because “No!” means … YIPPIE! I get steak!!! So– you need to tug on the leash, firmly, after you say “No!” EVERYTIME… in order to create a negative association with the word, “NO” so that your dog understands and associates what you want to communicate.