How to teach my dog a command
The process of teaching a dog a command is misunderstood by most dog owners. They think the dog is born with a response to a spoken word. They are so very wrong. The dog can’t speak….how can he understand?
Calling the title of this article a ” command” has really been a decision intending of the title getting more interest. Normally we would like to call a command- a cue!
The word command just implies to closely the meaning of following orders.
In dog training we would rather have a signal for the dog (a cue) that implies that now it is worth while doing.
Most commonly a owner trying to train their dog is saying the word “sit” first and expects the dog to respond. And the dog doesn’t!
So they will say it over and over, with no response and then they will try to get the dog to do it by physically inducing the motion / position with the leash or a push on the dog’s back, and he will eventually sit, after just about ten “sit”s have been spoken.
This is NOT how to train a cue to be associated with a specific behavior!
Let’s see how we can best create a response to a word we say to him.
The eye opening question I always ask is, which one would you rather have, the car or the key?
Equivalently to the subject, the car being the behavior, the key to the car being the cue.
Of course the answer is more likely “the car”! I can always make a key for the car.
If the answer would be “the key”- We would have to build the car around the key! But, do I really want to build the car around the key I have? No way!
Equivalently, the car is the behavior, and the key is the cue that has to be associated with the behavior that we created.
How is a cue for a behavior really learned? How is the key for that particular car really made?
Scientifically proven, a cue is learned if it is displayed either directly before a behavior is about to happen, or during the behavior is performed!
The cue is not associated until it is displayed before or during the behavior often enough to gain meaning. We have to agree that there must be numerous of repetitions, until that association is made. Sense full repetitions!
Find a way to make the behavior happen. You can use luring , shaping, capturing. You can use mechanical inducement as well. Don’t say anything, I know this is the hard part.
Once it is predictable that he will sit, slip the cue right in. Say the word when you can bet that he will do it right at this moment.
Train cues for one behavior at a time. This makes the specific behavior on the dog’s part being anticipated. Therefore it is easier for the trainer to predict the behavior most reliably. It is possible to train two behaviors, yet train those behaviors in separate sessions and preferably in different locations. Sit in the living room, down in the bedroom. Heeling in the hallway
You will find that the dog gets a very good idea of the behavior required to obtain reward. He is starting to recognize the picture. He will do the behaviors on his own, because he anticipates. Anticipation is the first step of learning. So do NOT ignore it when he performs the behavior on his own! Just slip the cue into it as soon as you can predict it will happen. We call it “fluency”, when a behavior is happening over and over.
The final stage to gain most control over the behavior by giving the cue is when you skip giving the cue while you see him performing the behavior and you don’t respond. On a ratio 1 in 10 times you skip attaching the cue to the behavior when it happens. Thus he does not get rewarded doing it without the cue being given. You will see a slight drop in fluency as he is wondering what just happened. Because all the “sits” have been rewarded up to that point. So once he tries again, he will hear the cue right when he starts the behavior again. Very quickly now he should realize the difference. Only the repetitions preceded by the cue are worthwhile doing!