Cute yellow colored puppy with green harness on green and white artificial turf

Overview of Verbal Cues

Now we are going to expand our repertoire of verbal cues. It’s extremely important that you remember the rules for teaching and maintaining strong reliable responses to verbal cues. The first and foremost rule is:

1. Don’t repeat the cue! We want to get into the habit of saying the cue ONE TIME. If the dog doesn’t respond then we are going to do something to prompt the desired behavior. Remember, you and your dog are a team. If the dog doesn’t understand an exercise, or doesn’t respond as desired, it’s up to us to help them get it right. 

2. The second rule to training strong reliable responses to verbal cues is, establish the behavior first, and then pair the verbal cue with an already fluent response. A (10 MINUTES 20 SECONDS) well established, fluent response, means that the dog has been trained to offer the behavior with the 3 D’s: duration, a controlled distraction (it’s a big world out there, your dog will learn how to generalize training to different distractions with time and practice. Generalizing to different types of distractions will be discussed in the next program.), and distance. 

3. The third rule of using verbal cues is to protect your cues.  It’s very easy to “poison” cues. If we cue our dog to “sit” prior to walking out the door to leave for work we are essentially punishing our dog for sitting by pairing the cue and the behavior with an undesirable outcome – you leave. Your dog may respond, but if you continue to do this over time your dog will eventually develop an aversive association to cue and the behavior will “break down” over time. Meaning, the response will lose enthusiasm, it will become slow and lethargic, your dog may even completely dis-engage and show avoidance behavior when you cue it, even in other contexts. Now let’s get started on training our dog to offer strong ENTHUSIASTIC responses to some key behaviors. 

4. Stress and arousal will influence your dog’s ability to respond to verbal cues. Use cues when you are 95% positive that your dog will respond to the cue, and hold the behavior until the release. For behavioral issues related to stress, anxiety, fear or frustration we are going to discuss devising a training plan that begins with classical conditioning exercises that will help to systematically desensitize your dog to their behavioral triggers and slowly re-integrate formally trained behaviors as your dog exhibits signs that their stress and/or arousal is de-escalating. 


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