How to Teach Verbal Cues
If you give your dog no hand indicators or body-language clues whenever you use your verbal cue for a conduct, will she know what you need and comply? Try turning your again or placing your arms behind your again and utilizing solely your verbal cue for a “Down” – did she lie down?
Does your dog perceive what conduct you would like her to carry out whenever you use verbal cues alone, with completely no hand gestures or suggestive physique language? In many instances, the body-language image we current to our dogs tells them as a lot – or extra – about what we count on them to do as our verbal cues do.
In truth, it’s fairly widespread for dogs to be unable to carry out the conduct that their homeowners are positive they know upon listening to the verbal cue alone – for instance, if the proprietor’s again is turned to the dog when he offers his dog the verbal cue.
There are many compelling causes to strengthen our dogs’ information of and response to verbal cues – not least of which is that there are literally occasions when it could be useful for our dogs to carry out the behaviors we wish when our again is actually turned!
The stronger their understanding of and response to our verbal cues, the extra doubtless it’s for our dogs to reply to these cues in conditions the place we glance completely different, corresponding to when our arms are full, we’re sitting down, we’re maintaining our eyes on an approaching dog and/or individual, or when our dog can’t see us as a result of he’s darting towards the supply van pulling within the driveway.
How to Teach a Verbal Cue
By serving to your dog make an affiliation between your verbal cue, the specified conduct, and the supply of a ensuing reinforcer (corresponding to a meals deal with), you educate your dog how to reply with the suitable conduct whenever you ask for it. You are giving him a alternative: the chance to be strengthened for performing a specific conduct, or not. If he chooses “not,” then your job is to work out how to assist him need to select to do the conduct.
First, you’ll correctly introduce the cue and assist him perceive what it means. While there are a number of other ways to do that, we’ll stroll you thru the method with a few fundamental behaviors utilizing considered one of our favourite coaching methods: the lure-reward methodology. The steps are:
1. Get the conduct. Encourage the dog to do the conduct through the use of a deal with as a lure to clarify to him what you need. When he does the conduct for the lure, “mark” the second that he does the specified conduct (with the press of a clicker or a verbal marker, such because the phrase “Yes!”) and provides him a deal with. (Note: For some dogs and/or for some behaviors, it’s possible you’ll want to lure/form – marking and giving treats for items of the conduct till you construct the ultimate conduct. See “Shaping Your Dog’s Behavior,” WDJ January 2017.)
2. Add the cue. When your dog will simply supply the conduct for the lure, use your verbal cue simply prior to luring the conduct. You are basically explaining to him, “This word means the same thing as this luring motion I’ve been doing.” Continue to mark and deal with as applicable all through the method.
Your dog coaching reward marker doesn’t want to “click”
A clicker is a small system that makes a constant, distinct clicking sound. Some make a really sharp sound; some make a softer (although nonetheless constant) clicking sound, just like the sound of a ballpoint pen being retracted or prolonged with the press of a button. But markers don’t have to be a click on; any distinctive, constant sound, gesture, or occasion can work.
I typically use the verbal marker “Yes!” with dogs, in a definite, constant, vibrant tone of voice. I’ve additionally perfected a loud “mouth click” by suctioning my tongue to the roof of my mouth and pulling it off with a powerful “pop” – very helpful when working with horses and I would like each of my arms free to deal with a 1,000-pound animal and associated tools. Dogs who’re sound-sensitive might do higher with a verbal marker than a plastic clicker.
But the marker doesn’t have to be a sound! People who prepare deaf dogs typically use a thumbs-up gesture or a momentary flash of a small flashlight to mark the specified conduct displayed by their canine college students. Any sign that’s constant and simply seen can work as a reward marker.
three. Add a pause. After a number of repetitions, pause for a couple of seconds after you say the cue, to give his mind an opportunity to course of the phrase; then lure the conduct. (“Several” will fluctuate from dog to dog. Some dogs will get it shortly; some dogs want extra repetitions to perceive the method. You will come to know what number of repetitions is acceptable to your dog.)
four. Vary the pause. As you proceed with cue-pause-lure, start to fluctuate how lengthy you wait earlier than you lure. Sometimes, use the lure after only a second or two; typically wait a number of seconds. Luring shortly retains him from getting annoyed. Waiting longer earlier than you lure offers him extra time to suppose.
5. Reinforce supplied behaviors. At this level, some dogs will start to supply the conduct earlier than you lure. If yours does, the primary time he does it, mark, deal with, and celebration! Tell your dog how sensible he’s, give him a number of treats (or a particular high-value deal with you’ve saved for this event), and provides him a break earlier than you attempt once more. Know that simply because he did it as soon as doesn’t imply he’ll do it each time – you should still have to do some cue-pause-lure repetitions, nevertheless it means you’re effectively on the best way to getting the conduct “on cue.” Congratulations!
6. Fade the lure. Some dogs gained’t start to supply the conduct so simply, which suggests you’ll need to “fade” the lure. This means you’ll proceed to cue-pause-lure, however step by step lower the quantity of luring assist you give him.
For instance, for those who have been shifting the lure six inches, attempt shifting it simply 4 inches; if he commits to ending the conduct, whisk the lure away, mark the completion of the conduct with out the deal with in entrance of his nostril, then give him the deal with.
Also, be acutely aware at this stage that you don’t inadvertently use different body-language hints or “prompts” to assist your dog do the conduct, corresponding to shifting a hand towards the ground for the “down.” If you do use these prompts, you should have to fade them later to have the conduct really on verbal cue alone.
Continue along with your repetitions, fading the deal with increasingly, till your dog will reliably supply the conduct with out the lure. Congratulations!
Note: Notice that I don’t use “air cookies” – pretending to lure however not truly having a deal with in your hand. To me, that is mendacity to your dog, and you continue to have to fade the “air cookie.” You would possibly as effectively simply skip this additional step and transfer proper to fading the lure.
Verbal Cue for “Sit”
Sitting is one probably the most fundamental of canine behaviors. It’s a straightforward conduct for many dogs to do, and an important “incompatible behavior” to ask for whenever you don’t need your dog doing one thing else, corresponding to leaping up on individuals. It can also turn out to be a helpful “default” conduct – the conduct you educate your dog to supply when he’s undecided what else to do, or when he’s asking for one thing – like, your consideration or his dinner.
Jacob makes use of a meals lure to entice Kitty into the sitting place. You might have to experiment the best place to your dog’s lure; in case your hand is simply too excessive, she might bounce up to attempt to attain it. If it’s too shut to her head, she might really feel threatened and duck away.
Here’s how to educate your dog a verbal “Sit” cue utilizing this course of.
1. Get the conduct. Do not use your verbal “Sit” cue for this step. Simply use a meals lure to encourage your dog to sit, by inserting it on the tip of his nostril and slowly lifting up a bit of. (If you go too quick you’ll “outrun” him and he’ll lose his connection to the lure.)
With some dogs you’ll be able to transfer the deal with again over the top a bit of; different dogs will discover this aversive and again away from you. Experiment a bit of by shifting the lure somewhere else – again a bit of, ahead a bit of, up a bit of extra, up towards your chest – till you discover the place that invitations him to sit.
If he doesn’t lure right into a sit pretty simply, lure/form it by marking and giving him a deal with him for any upward head motion that follows the deal with, and for any decreasing of the hindquarters, till he’s all the best way in a sitting place.
2. Add the cue. When your dog will sit simply for the lure, it’s time to add the cue. Say “Sit!” in a cheerful tone of voice (keep in mind, it’s an invite, not a command!), and lure him right into a sit place. Repeat this at the very least a half-dozen occasions. Continue to mark (with the press of a clicker or a verbal marker, such because the phrase “Yes!”) and provides him a deal with for sits all through the method.
three. Add a pause. Now say “Sit” in a contented voice and pause a couple of seconds. If he sits, mark and deal with and celebration – you will have a canine genius! More doubtless he gained’t sit for simply the cue but, so after two to three seconds, lure him to sit, then mark and deal with. Repeat a number of occasions.
Cue the cues
Today’s force-free dog coaching professionals more and more use the phrase “cue” slightly than “command” to describe the communications we give to our dogs after we need them to carry out a conduct. Here’s why:
The phrase “cue” sometimes refers to a sign that encourages somebody to take an motion. A cue informs your dog that there’s a chance for him to obtain a reinforcer (corresponding to a yummy deal with) for performing a specific conduct. Compare that to the phrase “command,” which suggests to give an authoritative or peremptory order. The implication whenever you give a command is, “You better do it, or else!”
The phrases we use are vital. They inform our psychological associations and bodily responses. As philosophically optimistic as an individual is likely to be when she is coaching her dog, if her mind thinks “command,” she is probably going to use a extra forceful tone of voice and extra dominating physique language. She would possibly even be tempted to bodily coerce her dog into place, albeit gently, if she perceives that her dog has “disobeyed” her command.
In distinction, a coach whose mind thinks “cue” is extra doubtless to use a lighter tone of voice, softer physique language, and to study why her dog declined the chance to earn a reinforcer. Perhaps he was distracted, didn’t perceive, hasn’t but generalized the conduct to a brand new surroundings, has a previous aversive affiliation with the cue, or has a medical subject of some type that makes it painful when he tries to carry out the conduct.
Keep in thoughts that it’s our job, because the supposedly extra clever species, to have the opportunity to get the dog to need to do what we wish him to do, slightly than simply pressure him to do it!
four. Vary the pause. Continue to “Sit”-pause-lure, however now, begin to fluctuate how lengthy you pause earlier than luring to give your dog’s mind time to course of the data and reply. Sometimes lure after only a one-second pause, typically two to three seconds, and typically wait so long as 5 – 6 seconds.
5. Reinforce supplied behaviors. Some dogs will start to supply sits at this stage with the longer pauses. Mark and deal with and celebration!
Continue to repeat this step, and keep in mind that he should want some luring. Just as a result of he sits in response to the cue typically with out luring doesn’t imply he totally understands.
Repeat this step till he responds to your verbal “Sit” cue with out the lure 80 to 90 % of the time. At that time you’ll be able to say he is aware of the cue – and you should still want to help along with your lure from time to time when he doesn’t reply due to the cue. (None of us are excellent!) It’s higher to lure when wanted than to repeat the cue and danger “learned irrelevance,” the place the cue loses its that means. Sometimes even very well-trained dogs want a bit of assist to get it proper!
6. Fade the lure. If you will have a type of dogs who simply doesn’t get it with the cue-pause-lure step, you’ll need to fade the lure. Give him your cheerful “Sit” cue, pause, and start to lure. As quickly as he seems to be dedicated to sitting, whisk the lure out of sight behind your again and let him end the sit with out the lure in entrance of his nostril. (If you retain the deal with in view, he might attempt to observe it!) Mark and deal with. Gradually lure much less and fewer, whisking the deal with out of sight sooner within the sit sequence, till, lo and behold, you don’t have to lure in any respect. Mark, deal with, and celebration!
We begin to educate “Down” as quickly as we will simply lure our dog into the sit place, even when “Sit” isn’t but reliably on verbal cue. It generally is a more difficult conduct for a lot of dogs than the sit, however the identical process works.
1. Get the conduct. Do not use your verbal “Down” cue for this step. Simply use your lure to encourage your dog to lie down, by inserting it on the tip of his nostril and slowly shifting it straight down towards the ground.
First stage of luring the “down”
Some dogs will observe the deal with straight to the ground and lie down the primary time you lure, however most want a bit of lure/shaping right here: transfer the deal with down a bit of, mark and deal with. Move it down a bit of extra, mark and deal with. Continue to lure him a bit of farther every time till he’s all the best way down.
If he stands up, you’ll have moved the lure too far, too quick, or moved it away from him slightly than straight towards the ground and he obtained up to observe it. Try once more, with smaller increments, and ensure the deal with is shifting straight towards the ground.
2. Add the cue. When your dog will lie down simply for the lure, it’s time to add the cue. Say “Down!” in a cheerful tone of voice (invitation, not command!), and lure him right into a down place. Repeat this at the very least a half-dozen occasions. Continue to mark and provides treats for downs all through the method.
three. Add a pause. Now say “Down” in a contented voice and pause a couple of seconds. Make positive you will have the deal with in a impartial place at your facet or behind your again. If you maintain it up at your chest, you’re giving your dog a physique language sign to sit. Because dogs are primarily physique language communicators, he’ll doubtless pay extra consideration to your “Sit” sign than your verbal “Down” cue.
If he lies down whenever you say the cue, mark and deal with and celebration – you will have a canine genius! More doubtless he gained’t lie down for simply the cue but, so after two to three seconds, lure him to lie down, then mark and deal with. Repeat a number of occasions.
four. Vary the pause. Continue to “Down”-pause-lure, however now begin to fluctuate how lengthy you pause earlier than luring. Sometimes lure after only a one-second pause, typically two to three seconds, and typically wait so long as 5 – 6 seconds.
5. Reinforce supplied behaviors. Some dogs will start to supply downs at this stage with the longer pauses. Mark and deal with and celebration!
Continue to repeat this step, and keep in mind that he should want some luring. Just as a result of he lies down in response to the cue with out luring typically, doesn’t imply he totally understands. Repeat till he responds to your “Down” cue with out the lure 80 to 90 % of the time. Remember, it’s higher to lure as wanted than to repeat the cue and danger “learned irrelevance,” the place the cue loses its that means.
Kitty is beginning to supply the “Down” after the verbal cue and earlier than Jacob makes use of a lure – yay!
6. Fade the lure. If you will have one of many many dogs who simply doesn’t get it with the cue-pause-lure step, you’ll need to fade the lure.
Give him your cheerful “Down” cue, pause, and start to lure. As quickly as he seems to be dedicated to mendacity down, whisk the lure out of sight behind your again and let him end the down with out the lure in entrance of his nostril. Mark and deal with. Gradually lure much less and fewer, whisking the deal with out of sight sooner within the down sequence, till, lo and behold, you don’t have to lure in any respect. Mark, deal with, and celebration!
You can use this similar course of to put many various behaviors solidly on verbal cue. First get your dog to do the conduct, then add the cue, then fade the lure. It is essential to start fading the lure as quickly as he’ll reliably carry out the conduct in order that your dog and also you don’t turn out to be depending on the presence of the lure to make the conduct occur.
We are a verbal species, and whereas it’s critically vital for us to perceive our dogs’ physique language communications, there’s something fairly compelling about serving to our non-verbal canines be taught our language. It may be very gratifying – and extremely precious for strengthening the dog-human bond – when your dog understands and responds to your verbal cues. Just resolve what conduct you need on verbal cue, and get began!