Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cleaning Up Your Cues

 "Charles, Charles, Charles" this still gets a laugh in my house. One day my family and I were enjoying a walk at River Park off leash area when this lady started to call her little Bichon mix to come. She must have said "Charles" over a hundred times with no response from her very cute fluff ball. He never did come and she resorted eventually to following him around and continued to call "Charles, Charles, Charles" in a very nasally voice. 
The point of this little story? When humans are frustrated we tend to repeat ourselves. This happens all the time. We tend to change the tone of what we've said but generally not even the words themselves. This can be blatantly obvious when someone is speaking to another person from a different language background. The same thing goes for dogs. If they aren't responding the first time it could be because: 
  • Rover is distracted 
  • Rover doesn't understand the cue word 
  • Rover doesn't care about the cue word

Now what? Well it's time to clean up your cues. When training begin with using a consistent training cue. Sit = Sit, Down = Down, Name = Look at me, Come = Come to me all the way and let me catch you, etc. Don't say down, lie down, lay down and use down when you mean off. This confuses your dog. 

Only say your cue word 1 time when you are asking for a behaviour and then wait. So if I'm practicing sit at the curb I will state "sit", wait 10 seconds, add my hand signal and then simply wait for compliance. By not repeating myself I am making that cue word matter. It's not being lost in all that chatter that humans are so often associated with. 

It's also important to ask yourself if your dog was ready to listen and demonstrate obedience skills in the environment you're in. If you've only ever practiced down indoors then maybe asking him to do it at the busy dog park is going to be too hard. Take things in steps and remember just because you taught a cue in one situation doesn't mean your dog will understand what it means somewhere else. Be a fair leader. 

The other issue can be that we've already diluted or poisoned a cue word so the dog doesn't care about it anymore or worse has a negative association with it. This can be seen commonly with rescue dogs or dogs who have had a harsh training background. Suddenly "come" means I'm going to yell, scruff and roll you. That's a poisoned cue. When I get a new dog I'll often use a different recall word than "come". Some good options include "here", "hurry", "hustle", "let's go", etc. It doesn't matter what the word means in English as long as your dog thinks it means "BEST PARTY EVER". 

Remember to use your cue words sparingly, associate them with positive rewards and make sure you have compliance when you ask your dog for something by setting him/her up for success. Dogs don't speak English (or any other human language) so we need to go slow, be clear and mean what we say.

No comments:

Post a Comment