The story of a boy living with Type 1 and his family's journey to raise and train a diabetic alert dog.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

One of the Most Useful Pieces of Training Advice I've Received

One of the most useful pieces of advice I received on my journey to raise and train Bo was to limit verbal cues to one or two word commands and to avoid adding the word it to the end of commands. The idea being the fewer number of words to discern within a command, the faster the dog will learn, recognize and interpret the command. I received this advice early in our journey and it has influenced how I choose the words for verbal cues. 

The following are the verbal cues we use with Bo and the behaviors they represent:

Take: Used to direct Bo to use his mouth to take an object from any number of places including out of our hands.
Get help: Used by Austin to send Bo to bring a person back to Austin.
Go sniff: Used to prompt Bo to use his nose and smell. 
Spin: Used to prompt a circle motion.
Back: Used to prompt two to three steps backwards.
Sit: Used to prompt Bo to have his tail-end on the ground or floor.
Down: Used to prompt Bo to have his underside on the ground or floor.
Stay: Used to prompt Bo to remain in one place.
Drop: Used to prompt the release of an object from Bo's mouth.
Bring it: Used to prompt bringing a retrieved object to us. (I do use the word it with this command)
Leave: Used to prompt Bo to turn his head away from an object, person or animal.
Wait: Used to prompt a temporary pause in action that's followed by eye contact.
Under: Used to prompt going under a table, bench or other object.
Touch: Used to prompt Bo to hold his nose on our hand.
Load up: Used to prompt the motion of jumping to get onto or into a higher surface. (i.e., into a car or onto a raised scale at the Veterinarian's office.)
Bump: Used to prompt Bo to bump his nose on our body or on an object.
Try again: Used as a non-reward marker to indicate a behavior given is not the desired behavior. (It's important to note 'try again' is not an aversive, it is never followed by a punitive act or reprimand. )
One: Used to prompt voiding urine.
Two: The opposite of one.
Come Bo: Used to call Bo to us. (I strive to reserve the come command as the only one that I couple with Bo's name.) 

Without making a conscious effort to use one or two word commands, it's easy to fall into a habit of adding additional words. For example:
  • Take your Kong;
  • Bo go get help;
  • Spin around;
  • Back-up;
  • Sit down (the combination of two separate commands);
  • Lay down;
  • Stay there;
  • Drop it;
  • Bring it to me;
  • Leave it;
  • Wait a minute.
What's one of the most useful pieces of advice you've received related to training your dog?

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