While dogs are very intelligent animals, they are bound by their limitations as well.
First of all, while dogs *do* understand *words*, they do not comprehend *language* as spoken by humans. This means that a phrase like, "Would you like a cookie?" doesn't have the same meaning to a dog as it would to a human.
Perhaps the dog may associate "cookie" to a treat, thus causing it to get excited, but the dog does not understand the grammatical nor syntactical structure of "Would you like a cookie?" Nor does the dog understand if you're asking a question or making a statement.
Additionally, dog's don't ponder limitless possibilities of cause & effect. Their brains just aren't wired to ponder information and situations that an average human would.
So, this is just a long winded way of saying that if you want to control the behavior of your dog, you must do the following:
1. formulate a response that you dog will understand.
2. time the response to an action that has happened so that the dog understands that your response is in direct response to his action.For #1:
Words are pointless. Dogs, like most animals, understand non-verbal communication much more than verbal communication. Dog's don't say words like "I'm going to bite you" nor write angry emails or una-bomber dissertations.
Dogs raise the hair on their backs, raise or lower their tails, crouch like a predator about to pounce, or raise their heads and ears in a dominant way. All of these are physical gestures aimed at communicating to other dogs and animals, including humans.
So, to communicate back to an animal that understands this kind of body language, you need to do the same. This means your body language/physical posture, and physical action will be better understood than words.
Don't say, "Hey, don't bite me anymore when I'm giving you this cookie!" Your dog won't comprehend a single word you've said, except for maybe "cookie" and get all excited.
Always ask yourself, "If I were mute, and could not speak, how would my communicate my disapproval?" And reduce that human response down to something a dog would understand.
For example, putting up a finger and waving it side-to-side as if to say "no" wouldn't do much to communicate to a dog.
Instead, that same finger used to jab a dog, as if simulating a bite or an attack would get your more mileage.For #2:
Dog's don't understand that they're getting punished for what they did 2 minutes ago, let alone 2 hours or 2 days ago.
If you were growled at 2 minutes ago, your chance to correct the behavior was lost 1:59 minutes ago.
You must time your response so that the dog understands what he/she did *just then* is what caused your response.
If you don't time the response properly, your well formulated non-verbal communication will be useless and wasted.
I think too many dog owners anthropomorphize their pets' behaviors, and subsequently, without much success, attempt to communicate to dogs as they would communicate to humans.
And, with all that said, I'm just as guilty of treating our puppy like a human.
But, I know the error of my ways!
I'm off my soap-box now