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Words, Cues and Commands

I wrote this for the beginning of my puppy class second week. In hope people with see their communication to our dogs differently. Its hard even as i train this pup the wrong words come out of my mouth sometimes and that is not useful to her. Recently i have really thought through what each words means and watch my pups face when i ask it.

So here is some thoughts about talking a language to a different spices and trying to teach them what our words mean. Its a whole other post trying to get humans to understand their dogs language better because that is all mixed up with what we think they should be saying and it gets complicated. But we talk to our dogs in 2 ways vocally and physically. For the most part we get the vocal part better but it still has its flaws.

When thinking about training our puppies, when do we want from them? To listen to what we say, to do what we ask, and sometimes do what we want we expect of them without asking?

To not jump up at people, to come back when called, to not pull on the lead, to not chew that, to settle when we are busy or eating. It is all possible. But we need to teach them and not just expect them to know what we expect.

We can do this in a couple of ways. We can repeat words at them until given the time situation and environment they work out through action and consequence.

Or we can create a behaviour with incentive, make that good then give it a name (cue) and then repeat in lots of different places and settings while its fresh in their heads until they truly understand the words.

So that’s how we teach it. Create the behaviour, make it good then name it (cue it). Creating an association between the words and the action. Why cue after the dog has learnt the behaviour? Well, if we name a “down” when they are half hearten and slow, then they associate down means in your own time and if you can be bothered right now. So we name it when they understand the hand action and do the action quickly and enjoy doing it! This makes for successful training. Of course we do have some words they will understand through association. Like saying “water” when we offer them the water bowl when they are hot, until one day they understand.

But the words we use are important. Like saying No when you open you open the front door but you don’t want the dog to go out with you. When actually an more effective word would be Stay if they understand that means don’t move. So you need to choose your words carefully and make sure your words don’t conflict with each other. For example your dog jumps on the sofa, when you don’t want them there. Do you say off or down?

But doesn’t down mean lie down? We need to choose carefully to not confuse the poor dog.

The cue: I use the word cue and not command for the words I use to my dog. I'd rather ask them than command a dog to obey me. If they aren’t listening, then most of the time, then my training needs to get better)

So here are the words i use;

Sit -

Down – Lie down

Up – on a step or invited onto sofa

Off – the sofa, stop jumping up

Here – come here

Leave it – get your nose away from that

Drop – i was too slow and its in your mouth already so drop it. Remove from your mouth.

Stay – stay put, don’t move

Wait – wait and stop before we move again.

Heel – walk at my pace, by my side.

Touch – use your nose to touch

Paw – use your paw to touch something

In – the house or van

Out – the van,

the bathroom or the kitchen before you pee.

Settle – Time to relax now

Bed – a good place for you to be right now.

Find it – I’ve dropped a treat for you, where has your toy gone?

Go round – come round the other side of that

Words I try not to use or aren’t that useful.

Stop it


What’s in your mouth?

Stop pulling

I told you not too

Why are you doing that?

What's this?


Your words are your tools. Use them wisely and sharpen what they mean.

Have think about all those words and full sentences you say to your dog.

Would it be better to say "Moona, come over here please" or "Come over here please Moona"?

Give you hint, the likely hood is she will hear the Moona part first, as she realises I am addressing her.

"Moona Here" is the clarity she needs.

So next time you shout something at your dog have a think about your words, cue and commands.

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