Today’s topic is don’t label everything. So we all want to develop voice commands. Voice commands are when you can say something to the dog, like “sit,” “down”, “come ” and, “heel”. Any of those things with no additional body language. With no leashes, no food, no toys, no remote collars. With any tool at all. The dog will respond to that queue.
Label The Actions
So in developing voice commands, there is a time when we want to label the actions. This is the process of using your leash, your body language, your food, your ball. And as the dog is in the process of moving, you’re calling out the name of the thing that the dog is doing.
So that way, there is an association when you take action and label it with a verbal cue. Then place reinforcement immediately after that. You have a recipe for developing voice commands. But if you’ll notice the title today, don’t label everything. Sometimes it is beneficial not to label the different actions the dog can take.
So let me give you an example. As some of you may know, I compete in a sport named Schutzhund or IGP, and it’s the same sport, just by some different names. In every level of the sport, there is a time in the obedience routine where we’re going to do off-leash heeling, and in that, there are a variety of things we have to do.
We have to move 50 paces with the dog heeling freely with us. We also have to do 15 paces of running and 15 paces slow. There are also right and left turns, and we also have to halt. All of this has to be done with only one voice command. Now you’re allowed to use a voice command whenever you’re changing paces. If you’re going from normal to fast or from fast to slow or from slow back to normal.
You are also allowed to use voice commands when you are beginning to move. But if you’re already moving and your dog begins to lose attention, you are not allowed to use a verbal cue. Okay, so why am I bringing this up? Here’s why? It’s beneficial when you’re training this way to teach the dog how to move together with you without actually developing a voice command, at least initially because you want the dog to be more focused on how they’re moving with you, using their eyes, rather than you using a sound that triggers their ears and only gets the dog to listen.
Don’t Label Everything
Because if you all know when you’re walking with a dog, do you want them listening to you or do you want them watching you and think about that? Because if they’re listening to you, they can’t see you. But if they’re watching you, then they might also be able to listen at the same time, too. So it might be helpful sometimes to not label every last thing your dog does.
Let me give you something a little bit more practical in the way that I train beginning dogs. I will tell them to go to the bed, sit, and down, and I might tell the dog to stay depending on the client. It is 100% doable and possible only to say go to your bed and have it mean to the dog to get on the bed and sit, lay down and stay all under that one voice command, and that actually might be beneficial.
Overdevelop The Queue
Let me give you the final reason why you may consider not putting action to a verbal cue. You may not want to put action to a verbal queue because every time you associate a word successfully to action, that action begins to become partially dependent on the queue. And if you overdevelop the queue, the dog only does it when they hear the verbal cue.
And here’s one that I see quite a bit. The “leave it” command. So people will teach their dogs to leave it, which I think is fantastic. However, I don’t believe that that one should be put to a verbal cue. It would help if you taught the dog all the nonverbals associated with leaving it without actually saying the word. The reason for that is when your dog has to leave it, and you’re not there to tell them to do so. They can learn to do it because you’re paying attention to the nonverbals instead of the sound that you’re making them about what they should do.
Okay, well, that’s it for today’s tip. I hope you’re having a good time with your dog. If you need any help, of course, you can always text me at 832-734-5189. And if you text me, your question could get answered next.