We all have pet peeves, and one of mine is the misuse of dog training cues. Cues have power, and it is important to maintain our dog’s clarity and understanding. Most cues are verbs because we want our dogs to do something. It’s vital not to dilute a cue as that will create uncertainty in our dog about what we really want him to do.
In the episode you'll hear:
- How dogs don’t understand past tense.
- The reason we should never say “good sit” or “good down”.
- The importance of questioning dog training experts.
- Why cues have a lot of power and value for our dogs.
- The ways cues are misused.
- Why a cue is a verb and not a description.
- What dilutes a dog’s understanding of a cue.
- Controversy surrounding cues and why I don’t say “stay”.
- How mixing physical cues and verbal cues can create conflict for your dog.
- How to keep quick responses to your cues.
- About control positions, release cues and creating clarity with your expectations.
Loved this episode! We just found out you had a podcast a few weeks ago, making our way through all the episodes to give our new lab/BC pup the best foundation we can. Using your guidance he now sits ALL THE TIME, sit to get out of the ex pen, sit to get attention, sit to get out of the crate, sit to start a game. Being super clear and consistent has helped him adapt to our home so quickly – we’ve only had him three days! SO GLAD I FOUND YOUR PODCAST!
As usual, Susan gives me more insight into the world according to dogs. 🤍
In agility training do you release from sit (break) then give jump cue
Hi Diana, you can release with “jump”, Susan has a recent podcast that explains how jump can be a reinforcement marker:
After thirty years of having Labs I got an ACD. What a shock. I watched your episode #136 and it changed my entire perspective. My breeder kept telling me “he’s not a Lab” but until I watched episode 136 I had no really concept of what he meant. Thank you for what you are doing – you have saved my sanity!
As always, thank you for this topic. I have been taught the “good stay” or sit or whatever and the hand in front of the face. Thank you for opening up a “is this what I think” idea as I review my old ways of handling my dogs. I can see how I will get better response. I watch a podcast as I do my stationary bike and while driving. Sometimes if I have some time in the evening or during lunch or, well you get the picture I am listening as often as I can. Thank you!
Whoa… my mind is blown with this episode and the thought that this is even possible to train your dog to sit and he can stay for such an extended time .
Your approach is fresh and feels so right on! I’m over excited (ha) that I’ve found you.
I’ve been using this “good cue” approach as it’s what I’ve been taught…. no more! I can’t wait to learn all I can from you to give my dog a better, happier life. Jett is a 4month old Blue Heeler and I’m hoping to get into agility too. So, we’ll be with you for the long haul. 🙌🏼
Thank you, in gratitude!!!
Great podcast and you gave me lots of ideas about making my cues clear. In particular, your insights on using “stay” does now seem redundant to me also. That’s brilliant!
Hi Susan I think I am making some of those mistakes you mention. Maybe because I don’t have the knowledge on what to do to have the perfect dog. My 4 month old poppy is my shadow. I am teaching him what I knows but wants to do more.
I love your training and everything you do, but… I’m not sure I agree.
No, dogs don’t know past tense. They also don’t know verbs vs. nouns. Dogs learn sounds and words. MRI studies have shown that dogs process tone and words separately like humans do but give more meaning to the tone. So a praise said neutrally, doesn’t mean the same thing as praise given in a positive, affirming tone.
They also process tone and words on opposite sides of the brain, like than humans do, but on opposite sides. It’s been theorized that instead of a symbolic representation of a word like we have, they believe dogs associate words more with actions. Science has also found that dogs have a higher attention for novel words. (Probably because they are wired to try and please us and are trying to figure out what it means.)
So, they’ve proven that dogs learn words in a way not too dissimilar to the way humans do, just flipped.
If dogs are linking words to actions and giving more attention to tone, and the new word over an old word, I think it makes sense that they are hearing the tone of “good” and focusing on the new word “sit”. Sit is the action they just demonstrated to us. So it isn’t about past or present, it’s about the linking of the action and the word.
Also, dogs aren’t completely stuck in the moment. If they were, we couldn’t train them. They’ve learned based on past events and are taught to anticipate future events.
I also have to give credence to my own experience. I can see when my dog has no understanding, and when she does. I’ve seen the light bulb go on in my dogs eyes when I repeated the word with praise immediately after the action. Once they’ve learned it, I just praise them.
So, I respectfully disagree and will continue to link praise with the new word in order to help my dog create meaning for it.
Susan, I love your podcasts! Entertaining and VERY informative. I am working toward leaving my habits formed from many years as a “balanced trainer” to a positive reinforcement based scientific trainer. It is a work in progress I must say. Your podcasts help bring clarity to me in my training practices.
Wow, this was an eye opening segment! I hope my 2 year old Papillon can catch on quick and I remember. lol
Awesome podcast! As I ‘ve followed your training for years I do indeed use sit, walk back, etc to mean keep doing that until I release you from it, and I only praise with praise words not cues, but the EXPLANATION of why that’s so important is brill, it hadnt made it to the thinking part of my brain til you defined it so clearly lol and as usual now gives me clarity in several aspects of my training with regard to cues. Thanks Susan 🙂 x
Thanks for another great episode – I can see I need to clean up several cues 🤪
I have even a worse problem. I follow the give the action cue and then wait for the release cue method but my partner does 2 things which drive me nuts. First he will say give a command like go to the bed and then he forgets to give a release cue and just walks off. The other is if he gives a command for example “sit” and the dog gets it wrong and lies down, he’ll then say “No not sit. lie down”. Poor dog – how confusing is that. Oh yes – my 3rd pet peeve of his – he repeats his cues “sit,sit,sit”. The number of heated disputes we have had about what I term as “his destroying all my training”. I know Susan has said in previous podcasts that the dogs can understand and adapt to different rules (is that the appropriate word I wonder – maybe something more akin to standard” set by different people but I think our dog just struggles with the inonsistency.
I absolutely love this episode! I had been training my dog to know that position cues meant hold until released, but then was peer pressured into believing I had to use wait/stay cues as well. I do somewhat see the benefit of a wait/stay to tell my dog okay remain her until I call you to me, versus wait here until I return however I’m not sure she cares one way or the other. Overall, definitely lots to ponder and reassess in my training 🙂
Love this. I picked up your lesson on one cue for a behaviour when I first started you in your Free Training lessons and I have stuck to this with my training. So, when I say to my dog ‘sit’, ‘give’, ‘leave’, ‘wait’ this is what she does. Thank you for making me a better trainer!
Clarity, now to retrain my brain to help my dogs.
I need a portable board that says “hit head here”! I find myself apologizing to my pups and I know they say “whatever” (they don’t know past tense). Thanks for a great podcast, Susan!
Hmm, interesting. These are great points. I know the wait cue works, but now I’m thinking it may not be necessary. For decades, I’ve always used an action cue followed by a wait cue with both cues only used ONCE – at home, or in obedience or at the start line in agility or at the table. In agility, I could then run a few obstacles ahead, turn to face my dog, point & bend a bit to let him know the fun is about to begin & he would bolt forward the instant my pointed hand went up. He was brilliant & fun! My touch signal is an open hand & my wait signal is a closed fist, so very different (I had to change my cue & signal from stay to wait, cuz my family never remembered wait but always said stay as they left the house!). Thanks again for your great insight.💕
Hi, great podcast, I have a question though…I’ve put my dog in a ‘sit’ and he leaves position before release cue, what would you do to fix this please?
Great podcast as usual. My question is: if I’ve not taught these cues correctly, how can I fix the problem? I’ve been saying “Wait” when I go to the front door when dog is in a sit and then I release. YIKES. how do I fix this?