Ever wonder why your dog won’t do what you ask?
Maybe it’s you.
Not you really, just the way you ask.
Most people don’t know that the cues they use to ask for a behavior could be the cause of your dog’s slow responses. [Read: your stubborn dog isn’t really stubborn — he doesn’t understand what you’re asking.]
Wondering what that even means? Read on (and then watch the video) for an explanation and — even better — a simple solution!
A cue is the way you ask a dog to do something.
It can be a word. It can be a hand signal. It can be just about anything the dog can see, hear, smell, or otherwise perceive. We’ve been tracking Levi’s progress on his “down” behavior and this week, we’re focusing on the cues. [Here’s our previous video and post on latency, another contributing factor to Levi’s “bad” downs.]
Here’s how you can get better responses from your dog when you ask him to do something.
Make sure the dog understands what you’re asking. In the video, you’ll see that I have two different ways to ask Levi to lie down: a hand signal and a word. Using the word gets a much quicker and cleaner response from Levi. Using the hand signal nets a very slow, not very pretty down.
Aha! There’s one of my problems: Levi doesn’t really know the hand signal.
It’s not Levi’s fault the down is slow and sloppy — turns out it’s a trainer problem. [Read: that dog’s not stubborn!]
No worries, there’s a quick and easy solution to teach Levi that the hand signal means the exact same thing as the word.
First, give the not-so-good cue (in Levi’s case, that’s the hand signal), then immediately give the known cue (the word, in this case). Be sure you’re not doing them both at the same time. One, then the other.
It looks like this: not-so-good cue –> known cue –> click and treat when the dog does the behavior.
Repeat that sequence several times. You want the known cue to “translate” the not-so-good cue. After about 15 – 20 repetitions, begin to pause one second between the two cues. Hopefully, if there have been enough pairings, the dog will start to anticipate that the second cue (the known one) is coming and will begin the behavior a little more quickly. If not, go ahead and give the second cue (the known cue).
It’s only a matter of time before the dog understands that both cues mean the same thing!
Remember, work only on one aspect of the problem at a time.
In our last video, we worked only on latency. We didn’t worry about which cue he knew better or about distractions. In this video, we let latency and distractions go while we focused solely on improving Levi’s response to the hand cue. Next week, we’re going to work only on distractions and won’t worry about latency or which cue he knows better. Then, once each aspect of the problem has been improved, we’ll put the whole thing together and we’ll have a much-improved behavior of down!