So far you've been training and playing games with your dog using just the clicker, and we hope you've been having fun and bonding with your dog! If your dog can solidly perform behaviors with the clicker, it's time to introduce a verbal cue.
A verbal cue is different from the clicker. The verbal cue indicates that you want your dog to perform a certain behavior, while the clicker simply marks a behavior as it is being performed.
For Unknown Cues
If your dog is unfamiliar with verbal cues, start by choosing a behavior that your dog is familiar with. To introduce the cue, wait until your dog starts to perform a behavior, then give the cue. Click the instant he performs the behavior. For example, if you want to introduce the "sit" cue, say "sit" as your dog starts to lower his back end. As soon as his butt hits the floor, click and treat. Repeat this process, gradually saying "sit"earlier until you're giving the verbal cue before your dog starts to sit. When your dog will sit after hearing the verbal cue, gradually fade out the clicker and treats.
For Known Cues
If your dog already knows a verbal cue, you can reinforce it with clicker training. Start by saying your dog's name clearly, then give the verbal cue. Click and treat when your dog gives you the behavior. If your dog doesn't give you the behavior right away, don't continuously repeat the cue. You'll sound like a broken record to your dog, and you may just confuse him. Instead, wait about 10 seconds, then repeat the cue once. If your dog still doesn't give you the behavior, change something - redirect or move your dog. Then try again by saying your dog's name and giving the cue.
Our next post will be on generalizing behaviors so your dog learns to give behaviors in any environment.
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