It is well known in the canine world that our canine companions are primarily body language communicators, that is, visual learners. That makes sense; They communicate with one another primarily through body language, including posture, facial expressions, and movement. When we start training them, they learn hand signals and body prompts fairly easily, but we usually have to put extra effort into getting our dogs to respond reliably to our verbal cues.
This explains why dogs sometimes fail to respond to a verbal cue even though the cue giver is confident that his dog “knows” it. Too often the person giving the clue does not realize that they are usually accompanying their verbal cues with one or more subtle body cues (such as a slight movement of their shoulders, a look down, or a tilt of their head) your dog is reliant on understand the keyword and respond to it.
Our training programs here at Peaceable Paws emphasize the use of verbal cues. We start with verbal cues in our elementary school classes and add hand signals in our more advanced classes.
If dogs are such good body language communicators, why do we start with verbal cues? Because we humans are a verbal species and our dogs have to live in our world! Our customers want to be able to talk to their dogs and make their dogs react.
When we begin the challenging piece, neither dog nor human rely on simple hand signals. They learn the verbal cues first – and the hand signals when we get to them are a breeze. People are happy to be able to verbally communicate with their dogs, and enjoy how quickly their dogs learn the body language cues when we add them.
Also, there are times when we need to tell our dogs not to see us. They might be too far away, it might be dark, they might be in a different room, or they might be looking elsewhere. Voice cues may be able to reach them when hand signals cannot.
HOW TO TEACH A VERBAL CUE
This is how we get new behaviors for verbal cues, using “Down” for our example:
1. From a seated position, lure your dog into a downward facing position without using any verbal cues. Put the treat in front of your nose and move the treat slowly towards the ground.
When her elbows touch the floor – when she is fully in the down position – mark the moment with the “click!” a clicker or a verbal marker, such as the word “Yes!” and feed them a reward. You may have to mark and treat several times along the way down until your dog finds out what you are asking of him.
2. When your dog is easily following the bait to a lower position, add the verbal cue. When your treat is out of sight (put your hands behind your back) just say “Down” clearly and happily once. Take a short break and lure your dog into the down. When her elbows hit the ground, mark the behavior (click or “Yes!”) And give her a reward. Repeat 6 to 7 times.
3. Now say “Down” as in step 2, but vary the amount of time you pause before using the bait. This gives her time to process what you’re asking of her and time to offer an answer.
When you see her looking at the floor or making a slight movement, it’s like asking, “Is that right?” If she does, tell her, “good girl!” and quickly lure her the rest of the way – then mark the correct behavior and give her a reward.
4. Some dogs offer the “down” behavior on your verbal cue in step 3. This is a nice shortcut – mark and treat and keep practicing. (Just because she does it once doesn’t mean she fully understands and understands it. You need to practice to get a solid, reliable answer.)
5. Most dogs need a few additional steps before they can offer the “down” only on verbal advice. Continue fading the bait as you did in step 3. Watch closely as you place the treat on the bottom. If she seems compelled to lie down, quickly wipe the treat away and hide it behind your back. When she has finished the “down”, mark and treat.
If she’s not done, bring the treat back out and entice her the rest of the way. Mark (click or “Yes!”) When her elbows hit the floor and give her a treat.
Next time, curl them to the floor a little further before wiping away the treat. Continue to vary the time you wait after giving the verbal cue before luring.
6. Gradually wipe the treat away earlier and earlier, until you hardly use the bait or no longer use it at all. Note that I am not suggesting intermediate hand signals or body prompts in this process, such as: For example, point to the floor – or worse, use “air biscuits” (hold my empty hand so it looks like I have a reward). . If you use any type of gesture, your dog still hasn’t learned the verbal cue and you still need to go through the process of fading the hand sign or prompt.
7. At some point your dog will begin to lie down when he hears the verbal cue without a bait. Congratulations! Now help her to transfer this hint and behavior to other places. Practice in a variety of environments, from places with little distraction to places that are distracting.
The procedure works in the same way for any other behavior that you want to “verbally stimulate”. Use your bait to show your dog what to do. Once she is easily coaxed into position, introduce a clear verbal cue and then start fading the bait until she does the behavior for the verbal cue only. Then generalize.
DO AND NOT FROM VERBAL CUES
Some important things to keep in mind when using verbal cues:
* A cue is not a “command”. Educated trainers no longer use the word “command” – the “Do it or else!” Implication. Modern trainers use “cues” – and a cue is simply an opportunity for the dog to strengthen itself to perform a behavior.
* Give cues in soft, happy tones. Even the word “command” implies a loud, powerful, mean, commanding tone of voice.
* Say the cue once and if the dog is not showing the desired behavior, help him (with a bait or a physical prompt). He may not know the behavior as well as you thought, he may be distracted, he may not have heard you. If you repeat the cue, have a seat. To sit! SIT! “(Becomes more imperious with each repetition) then” Sit down. Sit! SIT! ” becomes the cue and your dog can learn to wait to hear the third cue each time before performing the behavior.
* It will help your dog if everyone who interacts with him uses the same pointers. While dogs can learn multiple cues for the same behavior, it will be easier for your dog if you keep it simple – a verbal cue for a behavior.
* That is, dogs cannot learn multiple behaviors for the same keyword. Again, everyone has to adhere to this restriction with their dog. When “Down!” should mean “lie flat”, then you need another word that means “off the sofa” or “don’t jump on me”. I use “down” to mean “lie down” and “off” to mean “get off something”.
* Short, clear hints generally work better than long, polysyllabic words. Although dogs can learn longer words, the English “sit” tends to work better than the French “Asseyez-vous”. “Fetch” usually works better than “Bring it here”. However, it is also true that once dogs have learned a keyword very well, they can choose keywords from a sentence. If your dog is really reliable with his “off” keyword, you can say, “Please get off the sofa,” and he will – and you may feel less stilted in your communication with him.
* From time to time, pronounce your cue in the same way. If you usually give a short, clear “down” cue, but sometimes use a more emphatic, lengthy “doowwnn”, there’s a good chance your dog won’t understand you. Or as in “sitting. To sit! SIT! “For example, your dog may only recognize” Doowwnn! “As a keyword. Be consistent!
Put in the time
It is true that it takes a little longer to teach verbal cues than hand signals. But all in all, it’s not that difficult and definitely worth it once you know you can communicate with your dog in your own native language.