Perfect Puppy Training Book – Chapter 6 – Basic Commands (Part 2)
Chapter 6 – Basic Commands (Part 2)
The Release Cue
When you teach your puppy other cues, you’re also going to use a universal release cue. This will indicate to her that the exercise is over, and she can stop doing whatever it is you asked her to do.
Teaching a release cue helps to prevent some common mistakes in training. For example, if you teach your puppy to sit, how does she know when she can get up again? The release cue tells her when to end the sit. Otherwise, you may end up with a puppy that sits for a few seconds, gets up, sits when you repeat the cue, and gets up—over and over again.
Use the same release cue for every exercise. When the exercise is finished, simply say “Okay” as your release cue. (You can choose a different, short word if you want. Just use the same release cue every time.) Make sure that you only use this cue to indicate that the exercise is over.
When you use your release word, make it very casual; do not praise your puppy or give her a treat afterward. Remember, you want to mark the second she performs the behavior and reward her during the behavior, not afterward. For example, let’s say that you ask your puppy to lie down, and you correctly mark and praise the behavior. Then you release her with “Okay!” and give her pets and hugs. The next time you ask her to lie down, she may pop right back up because she enjoyed the affection she got the last time she got up. To avoid this, make sure that she gets all your attention while she’s lying down, which is the behavior you wanted. When you release her with “Okay,” be very matter-of-fact about it and don’t show her much attention. She’ll want you to ask her to do something else!
By simply learning when to shower your dog with attention and when to withhold it, you can encourage good behaviors.
Have you ever been to a very busy city? Do you remember what it was like to have your senses bombarded for the first time with all the sights, smells, and sounds? Think of your puppy as living there, in that initial overwhelming moment, just about all the time.
Puppies have more acute senses than do people. Because they can smell and hear things that you can’t, their environments are very rich. This also explains why they are so easily distracted. It’s very normal for a puppy to pay close attention to you one second, then completely forget that you exist the next. Something as simple as a hunk of dirt could completely enchant your puppy and capture her attention.
This is why it’s a good idea to teach your puppy a cue for paying attention. Let’s cover the basics to teaching her this command:
- Have some treats in your hand. Show your puppy a treat, and give her the cue “Watch me.” Slowly draw the treat up to your eyes. When she looks you in the eye (she’ll really be looking at the treat, but that’s okay) mark “Yes!” and give her the treat.
- After a couple repetitions, your puppy should be following the treat up to your eyes and looking at your face. At this point, stop holding a treat up to your eyes but continue to use your same hand signal. Draw your empty hand up to your eyes. When she looks you in the eye, mark “Yes!” and give her a treat.
- When your puppy is looking you in the eyes regularly when you give her the cue, you can gradually wean off the hand signal if you choose.
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