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Al's Dog Training Tips

Advanced Cues – Minimizing Your Leash and Improving Verbal Timing

I want to start by saying that this article is focused on advanced cues, so if you’re a beginner, don’t use advanced stuff until you’re good at the basic stuff.  It’s too easy to get drawn into wanting to use the advanced techniques before you’ve mastered your basic ones.  

A lot of you know, the way I use a leash, in the beginning, is to add some gentle leash pressure, get the dog onto the target, then when they do that I turn the leash pressure off.  That’s “pressure on, behavior, pressure off.”  Also in the beginning when I’m associating my voice to the verbal cue and the target behavior I want, I will say the verbal cue at the last possible moment before the dog does the thing I want.  

I continue to do that for quite some time with the dog, and continue to reinforce those things together.  I’m reinforcing “I’m going to use the leash, I’m going to tell you what to do right as you’re doing it, you’re going to get rewarded and I’m going to slack the leash.”  I keep hammering in that very basic nail.  

Next, begin to play around with the timing of when you’re going to say the voice command and use the leash.  Here are three different ways you can use your leash in conjunction with your voice when you’re ready to move beyond the basics.  One, tap the leash in the direction of the target you want your dog to move, and then you would say the voice command.  This is “tap then talk.”  The next iteration is to tap the leash and say the verbal cue at the exact same time, and the third iteration is to say the verbal cue and then tap the leash.  So, to recap, those three would be “Tap then talk,” “talk and tap,” and finally “talk then tap.”  

I’ll tell you, when I start using this pattern with my leash and verbal cue, I don’t necessarily divide those up equally.  What I end up doing is trying to put those together and see which one works the best.  I go through that and I begin to reinforce that because the end goal is to maybe have the leash on the dog and only say the voice command to get the dog to hit the target under any circumstance.  

Let’s just say we’re using this technique to get the dog to come when called and we’re using a long line, I want to have my long line on the dog, and they come amid a heavy distraction and then reward them.  I want to understand that the dog will reliably come each and every time I do that.  Try it. It works!

I’ve never shared this intermediate technique before, I hope it’s really useful for you.  

Happy training!

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