So often people ask me: “When do I add a cue?”
As a guide, when we can predict our dog will perform a behaviour, and we love the way he is performing that behaviour, we can put a cue on it.
Crate Games is good to use as an example. We are shaping our dogs to go into the crate with a fun game of choice. When our dog is racing into the crate with speed, and we can predict he will do this, we can put a cue on the behaviour. The cue I use is ‘in-da-kennel’. Of course, Crate Games is FAR more than shaping our dogs to go into a crate however everyone would be familiar with wanting to see their dog race into a crate with speed and joy on cue.
Adding a cue prior to when we love the way the dog is performing a behaviour opens up the possibility that the cue becomes attached to “incomplete learning”.
Before you add a cue be certain you ask yourself these two questions.
- Do I really need a cue right now? Are there environment prompts that will encourage the dog to perform correctly (such as your body position for “back up” or the presence of poles to encourage weaving)?
- Does my dog have D.A.S.H while performing the behaviour? In other words… does my dog understand the criteria I have outlined for this behaviour in any environment without lures or prompts from me.
If you answer “no” to those two questions, no sweat, you should know that while you are adding strength to your dog’s understanding of what you want, there are already other subtle cues in place that are prompting his response. The environment you are working in, your body position or the equipment you are using all are triggers to the desired response. These “triggers” will prompt your dog’s behaviour until a time he is ready for you to add a formal verbal cue.
If your answer is yes to the above two questions, then ask yourself a third:
- Do you love your dog’s current performance of the desired behaviour?
It is always best not to add a cue to the dog’s performance until you love what the dog is giving you.
Any struggles, speed issues, sloppiness your dog has at this point may be attached to the cue you give him. In other words, if he continues to miss weave pole entries as you are training and you are saying “weave, weave, weave” to him; the cue “weave, weave, weave” may develop the meaning to your dog of “go ahead and miss your entry!”
When you can answer “yes” to all three questions, you are ready to add your cue! Wait until you know for certain your dog is about to offer the response then say your cue once, quietly. Of course, this cue will be meaningless to your dog. A cue only has “power” once it is attached to a favourable outcome for the dog (ie reinforcement). After a few repetitions of hearing this new cue, performing his known behaviour and earning reinforcement the dog will make the connection!
If the dog has had ample reinforcement in the past for his performance your voice should not interrupt his behaviour and you can reward him as usual. If however, the dog stops when he hears you speak wait him out. Resist the temptation to repeat the cue. You want the dog to learn that one cue will prompt one response. If you are patient it will only take a few repetitions before the dog will confidently perform the task immediately following your cue. It may take many more repetitions before your new cue will prompt the dog to perform the behaviour whenever you ask, in any environment but that too will come with patience and practice.
Crate Games teaches our dogs a release cue, builds clarity as well as confidence for duration behaviours.
Replacing A Prior Cue
This process becomes much easier if you are attempting only to add a new cue to one the dog already knows. For example, if you want to teach the dog a hand signal for his “down” behaviour and he has an amazing understanding for the verbal cue down.
Already remember this; the dog must see the new cue FIRST. Yes at this stage it is meaningless, but the old cue will add meaning for him.
New Cue + Old Cue + Reinforcement (if dog complies) = Desired Response to New Cue Alone.
Be certain when you do this that you do not make the mistake of pairing the new and old cue together. It is a definite two-step process; “new cue” – 1/2 second pause – “old cue”. Plan to fade the old cue quickly.
Have you cued a behaviour too early, or wish you had a cue but have not been sure about the process? Is there a cue you have but want to change? Let me know in the comments.
Crate Games ONLINE
As I noted above, Crate Games is w-a-y more than just getting your dog to go into a crate… it’s how we can get a 10-week old puppy to not chase a cookie when we want him to hold a sit-stay, or not jumping on your guests, or to wait at a door and not just bust through it!
Regardless of whether you are introducing a puppy to a crate for the first time, a rescue dog, or retraining an older dog, Crate Games presents a clear plan to teach your dog how much fun life is when he plays along with your game.
Choice based training is a real thing… the gift of allowing your dog to choose is one that I have been advocating for 20+ years. Set the environment up for the dog to succeed, offer reinforcement for the choices you want to see repeated and then test the understanding. In my mind it’s no longer dog training it’s just a “game within a game”. Crate Games is a step in progressing and integrating choice into our dogs’ lives.
For me, GAMES and choice have been the answer when training my dogs. Training this way has always been a win-win for both the dog and me. I would love it to be this way for everyone because, as I have said over and over, my ultimate goal is to help dogs worldwide be better understood by their owners.
Crate Games has long been foundational for my own dog training, and a game of choice I have taught for over 20 years in person and through my DVD. Crate Games is extensively used and recommended by dog trainers and professional dog care providers around the globe.
For over a decade my Crate Games DVD has been easily accessible to everyone, but as technology moves on we have had more and more requests to have Crate Games available as an online resource.
We listened! Click here to learn more about Crate Games Online.
You can visit my vlog “The Transfer of Value in Dog Training” where I use the model of Crate Games to cover the importance of when we name behaviours and the transfer of value.
Today I am grateful for the 20 years of lessons that the dogs playing Crate Games around the world have taught us. My own puppies, rescues, and visiting dogs here at the Say Yes Ranch, plus the dogs who share their lives with my students, have flourished with the clarity of Crate Games.
This is great and so timely to read – I’m trying to work on my dogs sitting and waiting for a release cue to go through the door when I open it. I have started HS the Dog recently (so this may be covered in there but I am not up to it) but struggling with the order of things and cues etc. I would say probably 60% of the time when I wait, both dogs will decide to sit but other times I do have to ask them. I have been using the method of closing the door (same as in Crate Games) if they start to move forward and this is going quite well as more often than not both dogs will stay in their sit, I can walk through the door and release. Just wondering when I’m trying to train them to sit at the start if there is a more effective way to do it or when I should be giving the cue?
Hello Susan I am from Mauritius island and actually engaged in trg dogs,I am willing to get the online re callers trg.How do I proceed please
Hi Denis, Recallers usually opens in summer in the northern hemisphere, so it won’t be all that long. Here’s where you can register to be notified as soon as enrolments are open:
Hi Susan, I love your videos with your well trained dogs, that’s great but I haven’t seen a video of how to get that result from step one. I mean to get your dog to drop his toy on command is good but how do you start training a dog to do that from the start. I have a 2 year old male German Shepherd who has no concept of recall! I am totally ignored until he comes when he is hungry. Where do I start to get him to come on command. I am so excited to learn as much about training my beautiful boy as I can but it needs to be from the very start.
Crate games will help tremendously to teach you and your dog this choice based system. I would definitely get the online download for a year.
Susan opens the classroom Recallers a few times a year and I promise you you will have an amazing recall if you follow the program. And there you will learn step by step layered games and have a fabulous community to support you.
I have a question about teaching behaviors. “What is your view on luring your dog to teach them a behavior vs. shaping the behavior?” And “Is there ever a time when you personally would use luring?”
Last week my grandchildren, Frank (6) and Katie (4), were with me. I suddenly heard Frank burst into laughter.
He had decided to test my 2yr old BC to see if she really knows her OK release command for IYC.
So he whispered to his sister “I’m going to see if she really knows what OK means”
At OK she gleefully gobbled up the cookie she had been gazing at! So now they are both convinced that all the seemingly daft things I do actually work!
We all had a good laugh?!!!
Hello Susan, this is a Grrrrr entry, will share it as far as possible.
I does know many Border Terriers (& other wonderful breeds of course) only I am pals with hundreds of BT pals via IG (@SassVH)), Tw (@btposse), FB (Sir Jack Spratticus)
Mum & I (Mum especially!) are complete novices in comparison to you, having now been in my forever home for my first for a little under 6 years (I am now 7 years old)
GAMES have always been a big part to Mum’s training my good self. Whilst having lots of fun, I learnt and thinking back Mum had already in her own way (prior to even being aware of your Free Workshop Facebook page) introduced her version of CHOICE. We had begun to make huge strides in turning me, a fear aggressive BT, around. When we found you we had by this stage got to being able to walk in dog friendly areas with ease, and had also begun my training to become mum’s Assistance Dog, Owner trained.
Thank heavens I was introduced to your Free Workshop facebook page …
Here I was introduced to one of your very first games which introduced CHOICE the Susan Garrett way … THE answer for certain … A Win – Win for both of us? … my good gracious YES YES YES!
I would love it to be this way for everyone too … so I could share my story, with the emphasis of the incredible impact your training has had – Mum doesn’t say she’s knows it all by far, but she’s been incredibly influenced by your training, as have I – she understands me in ways that wouldn’t have been conceivable had it not been for your GAMES & CHOICE! THANK YOU FROM BOTTOM OF MY AND MUM’s HEART xx Sir Jack
This is a good reminder, thank you! I refer to your blog all the time and appreciate your amazing insight!
Ohhhhhhhh! Once you add a cue you are no longer “shaping” the desired behavior, instead you are asking for it to be repeated, so if the behavior is still incomplete that’s all you’ll ever get (unless of course you “reteach” the behavior). BING! The light just flicked on in my mind! This makes SOOOOO much sense!
I like that !!!!!
Wonderfully clear description! Kate
Thank you for the reminders! Great info.