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Your Weekly Training Tip

Feb 28, 2010

Go to Canine Behavior Services home pageOne Behavior, One Cue

Dogs are such amazing learners, that sometimes we forget that for them, learning to respond to our cues and commands is similar to us learning a foreign language - just a little harder! Dogs don't have translators, or canine-human dictionaries, or nifty language software to help them along. Frequently, when our dogs are having trouble becoming reliable with a command, it's us that have muddied the waters for them.

Suppose you say "come" or "come on" to your dog. Is your dog sure to understand what you mean? Do you want your dog to run from where he is, straight to you? Or, do you just want him to walk along with you? Maybe you're simply trying to hurry him up ("come on, Ginger, get in the car!"), or cheer him on ("sit, sit -- come on, Baby, sit!"). Similarly, maybe you've asked your dog to "down". Do you want him to lie down? Sit down? Get down? Or maybe put it down? What's a dog to think?! Put yourself in your dog's position - having one word mean more than one thing can get mighty confusing!
Is there a better option? Absolutely! For each unique behavior, have a unique verbal cue. Helping your dog this way speeds learning and increases response time and reliability (not to mention reducing your frustration!). Below are some suggestions for various commands that dog owners often inadvertently "double up" on:

Lie down: down, drop, lay, platz (German word for down, used by many protection trainers)
Paws on the ground: off, down
Come when called: come, come here, here
Walk on leash: heel, let's go, right here, with me
Release an object: drop, give, leave it

Frankly, you can choose any word you like for any command. You could teach that "grape" means lie down, "cherry" means keep off, and "apple" means drop your toy! It makes no difference to your dog. I would only suggest that you use words that make sense to you, since in order to use them in teaching and guiding your dog - you will need to keep them straight!

Until next week, enjoy your dogs, and Happy Training!

Julie Cantrell BSc, CPDT-KA, CDBC
Canine Behavior Services



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Weekly Training Tips are Copyright 2010, Julie Cantrell BSc, CPDT-KA, CDBC, Canine Behavior Services. All rights reserved.