Canine Good Citizen

Week 2


Irrelevant stimuli can become part of a command or cue in the eyes of a dog.  If you consistently do something with any part of your body-hands, legs, eyes- when you give a dog a verbal command the dog will probably pick up on it and consider it as a part of your command.   Dogs are very visual animals and key in on body language.  Body language/signals are how dogs communicate.  They are also very cognizant of their environment and can pick up cues from their surroundings. Some examples:

  • - The handler's movements (striking thighs leaning forward when the dog is called)

  • - The position of the handler when the command is given (to the left side,  right side, in front of, close, far)

  • - Familiar versus unknown/novel place

 It is important to work with your dog in a variety of places and under a variety of conditions.  That way the dog learns that the constant is your verbal/signal command.  You command, and your command alone signals that there will be a reward available when the dog performs the behavior.  It doesn't matter whether there are ring gates surrounding him or a sofa behind him.   When the handler says "sit" and the dog sits, good things happen.

Consider the above issues before assuming the dog is making a choice not to respond.  It could be that the dog doesn't understand the command when given in an unfamiliar way or unfamiliar place.  If the dog does not understand and receives a correction or punishment for failure to perform, the dog might become anxious or confused.

If something irrelevant has been attached to the command the handler can fade it out once it has been identified.   For example, if the dog only comes when the handler leans forward or when shaking a cookie box, over time lean a little less, shake the box a little less, until the handler is standing straight or the box is present but not shaken.  If the dog only performs at class or in the living room by giving the dog an opportunity to practice at a park or during a walk will help the dog to generalize the behavior. 

Changing the Command

If the dog has learned a certain command for a behavior and your want to replace it with another command, you can do so by pairing the new with the old.  This is especially helpful when dogs have learned the down command to the "lay" cue and now you wish to change the command to "down." ( Lay is easily confused with STAY.) You can lure for the position and command "Down,Lay."  After several repetitions fade the old cue, (say it softer) until it is gone.  The dog will then respond to the new cue.  This is also helpful when dogs do not have a response to the "come" command.  You can rename the command to "here" as in  Fido "Here, Come" retrain to the new command and eventually fade the Here and get back to reliable recalls to the COME command.

Food Tracking

Teaching the dog to follow food is a good way to teach behaviors that require the dog to move.  We use food tracking to teach the dog position exercises.  Other behaviors can be taught by the same procedures.  We can use food tracking to teach tricks like "spin" or for an obedience "finish."

Start with the food at nose level and close to the dog.  Cue the dog to "get it!" and move the food.  Usually you will have to move the food slowly at first, until the dog understands he is supposed to follow.   Don't expect the dog to follow too far before he gets the food when you first teach the behavior.   Try and release and reward while the dog is moving.

While teaching the dog to track food, remember:

  • Teach him to track from both hands

  • Have him track a variety of directions- to the right to the left behind you, through your legs, up (for a jump.)

  • This should be a fun exercise so use your voice to praise and encourage your dog.


Attention Exercise : Print out for class use!

Loose Leash Walking: Print out for class use!!








Return to Main Page