Have you ever wondered why we use the command “sic ’em” when instructing dogs to attack? This phrase, commonly heard in movies and real-life situations involving guard dogs, has a rich linguistic and cultural history that dates back centuries.

Contrary to what some might think, the command “sic” doesn’t have anything to do with the word “sick,” meaning ill. Instead, it’s a dialectal variant of the word “seek,” which historically implied seeking with the intent to attack. This aggressive connotation of “seek” can be traced back to early English literature, including the epic poem “Beowulf,” written around AD 1000.

The earliest documented use of “sic” as a command for dogs to attack appears in Johnson J. Hooper’s 1845 work, “Adventures of Capt. Simon Suggs.” In this book, the phrase is used in a context that indicates the intent to set the dogs on someone, demonstrating the term’s use in 19th-century American English.

While it’s unclear how “sic ’em” became the go-to phrase for instructing dogs to attack, its widespread usage can be attributed to its effectiveness. Dogs respond best to concise commands that are distinct and easily discernible from regular human speech. “Sic,” being a sharp, one-syllable word with distinct beginning and ending sounds, fits this criterion perfectly.

The effectiveness of “sic” as a command also lies in its acoustic properties. Although the ‘s’ sound might seem soft to human ears, for dogs, it stands out due to their superior hearing abilities. Dogs have a wider range of frequency detection and a significant part of their brains is devoted to processing sounds. Consequently, the hissing ‘s’ sound and the hard ‘k’ at the end make “sic” an ideal command.

Over time, “sic ’em” has evolved from a practical command into a cultural symbol, often associated with guard dogs and protective behavior. It exemplifies how language adapts to suit specific needs and how certain terms can gain widespread recognition beyond their original context.

The Linguistic Legacy of Dog Commands

The story of “sic ’em” is a testament to the dynamic nature of language and how it can evolve to meet the practical needs of communication, especially in the realm of human-animal interactions. It highlights the fascinating intersection of linguistics, history, and canine training.

Understanding Dog Perception of Human Commands

When we say “sic ’em” to a dog, it’s not just the word itself but the sound and delivery that matter. Dogs interpret commands based on sound patterns and tones rather than the semantic meaning we associate with them. This understanding has shaped modern dog training methods, emphasizing clear, sharp commands that are easily distinguishable from regular speech for better canine comprehension.

The command “sic ’em” has transcended its practical use, becoming a cultural symbol often depicted in media and literature. It often portrays dogs as protectors or attackers, reflecting societal views on canine roles. This depiction underscores the influence of language and cultural representation in shaping our perception of animals and their behavior.

The sound structure of “sic ’em” illustrates why certain commands are more effective in dog training. The distinct ‘s’ and hard ‘k’ sounds make it easily discernible for dogs. This aspect of canine auditory perception plays a crucial role in how trainers develop and use commands, emphasizing sounds that are more likely to elicit a quick and accurate response from dogs.

It’s important to distinguish “sic ’em” from similar-sounding phrases like “sick as a dog,” which has an entirely different origin and meaning. While “sic ’em” relates to dog commands, “sick as a dog” is an idiom used to describe feeling extremely unwell. This differentiation highlights the rich and varied ways in which similar-sounding words and phrases can have vastly different meanings and origins in the English language.

The Dual Meaning of “Sic” in Writing

When you come across the term “sic” in written material, it’s not just about dogs. “Sic” also plays a unique role in the world of editing and quoting. If you’re reading a quote and see {sic} included, it’s a signal from the writer that an error in the original quote has been intentionally preserved. This use of “sic,” stemming from Latin meaning “thus” or “so,” is a tool to maintain the authenticity of a quoted text while acknowledging that the mistake isn’t the quoter’s.

“Sick” in Board Culture

You might be familiar with “sick” as a slang term for something exceptionally cool or impressive. But did you know this usage dates back to 1983 in boarding culture? Yes, long before it became mainstream slang, the snowboarding and skateboarding communities were using “sick” to describe awe-inspiring tricks and moves. So next time you use “sick” in this context, remember you’re tapping into a piece of 80s board culture!

Understanding Your Dog’s Vision

When you play with your dog, it’s helpful to understand their visual capabilities. Dogs, known for their excellent hearing, actually have a vision quality of about 20/75 for stationary objects. This means they don’t see as clearly as humans when objects are still. However, their ability to detect moving objects is far superior to ours. They can spot moving objects up to twice as far away as they can with stationary ones. So, when you’re playing fetch or engaging in motion-based activities, your dog is more adept at tracking the movement, making these activities particularly enjoyable and engaging for them.

Choosing the Right Command for Your Dog

When training your dog to respond to commands, it’s essential to select words that are distinct and easy for your dog to recognize. While “sic ’em” is traditionally used for commanding an attack, you might not need such an aggressive command. Consider using simpler commands like “sit,” “stay,” or “come” for everyday interactions with your dog. These commands are equally effective in ensuring your dog understands and follows your instructions.

Understanding Your Dog’s Response to Commands

You need to know that dogs respond more to your tone and body language than the actual words. When you give any command, including “sic ’em,” use a firm and consistent tone. Your dog is more likely to understand what you expect from them if your voice and posture convey authority and consistency.

Training Your Dog Responsibly

If you are training your dog for specific tasks like protection or guard duties, “sic ’em” might be a relevant command. However, it’s crucial to approach this responsibly. Training a dog to attack should only be done by professional trainers. This ensures that the dog learns to respond appropriately and that both you and your dog remain safe.

The Ethics of Using “Sic ’em”

Before teaching your dog the “sic ’em” command, consider the ethical implications. Encouraging aggressive behavior in your dog can lead to unintended consequences. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your dog’s training and behavior do not pose a risk to others. Always prioritize positive reinforcement methods and train your dog in a way that promotes safety and good temperament.

Legal Responsibilities of Dog Owners

Be aware of your legal responsibilities as a dog owner. If your dog is trained to attack on command, you might face legal consequences if your dog harms someone. It’s vital to understand the laws and regulations in your area regarding dog training and ownership. Ensure that any training, including the use of commands like “sic ’em,” aligns with local regulations and ethical standards.

Think of training your dog like programming a very cute, furry robot. The words you use are less about Webster’s dictionary and more about how they sound and feel. “Sic ’em” might be the buzzword, but it’s the energy behind it that counts. It’s all fun and games until Fido takes the command a bit too seriously, so train with care and remember – a well-trained pooch is a happy, tail-wagging companion.