Whether being zen masters of cues or just well-tuned in, each human-dog team is happier when the parties know what’s what.

By Jacqui… 24PAWS’ canine co-director Scottie is my everyday companion. When he and I started training together he was just 8 weeks old. By the time we went to puppy school at 12 weeks he knew several hand signals and what to do when he saw them (consistency was another matter – there were distractions everywhere!). Whether being zen masters of cues or just well-tuned in, every human-dog team is just happier when each knows what’s what. (Your dog can likely handle people using different words for the same action or response; a dog’s life gets tricky when people use the same words but for different expected actions or responses!)

Practising the cue of “statues” before Jacqui throws the ball – good boys!

Hand signals are my go to with every dog, but I back these up with the corresponding word(s). Then it’s about consistency with delivery and frequent opportunities to practice (and practice…).

A surprising thing that Scottie picked up really quickly was words for his toys. I’d say a word, he’d go get the toy (wherever it was) and bring it. “Pirate”, “kangaroo”, “duck”, “stick, “ball”, “rope”, “sheriff”, “gator” etc. A while back I was doing an assignment and looked down to find he had arranged all his toys beside my chair – clearly he figured I needed a play break 🙂

Scottie suggesting a play break, employing all his toys.

Need a couple of ideas? Maybe try these 🙂

Stop, sit, walk-with-me” I use this combo at the kerbside. Scottie knows not to go off the curb but I say “stop” anyway. “Sit” in this case means sit until the road is clear; we’re going to let driver’s know that you’re not about to leap out. “Walk-with-me” means stay by my side and if I stop part way across, you stop too.

Stop, sit, wait, come” This is a sequence that we practice over and over at the park. This combo can make even a shortish walk interesting and helps Scottie get a good run in as he bounds to catch up after receiving the final signal. (Saying and signalling “wait” lets him know I’m going to walk off.)

Early on I used an unconventional term when I wanted to attach the lead:

“Yoga pose” From the first time that we set off on a walk, Scottie would squirm around when I wanted to clip on the lead. The more I wanted him to sit (and sit still) the more he’d squirm. One morning when he was doing his “downward facing dog” stretch, I said “good boy, yoga pose” gave his back a nice rub and popped his lead on with no problems at all. Now when I say “yoga pose” he does the stretch, gets a back rub, knows the lead is going on and it’s all good. For a long time now he’s been as good as gold with just sitting or standing for the lead to be attached, but at home we still go through the yoga pose routine just for fun.

And I used the simplest of methods for Scottie to let me know when he needs to go outside:

Woof” Toilet training was a major focus for the first couple of weeks that Scottie and I were together. I’d take him outside very frequently with the words “outside” then “do wees”. When we were outside and he went to poop I’d say “do your thing”. I then needed him to be proactive about letting me know when he needed to go out. For this I’d say “outside” and he’d head to the door, then I’d stand at the door with my hand on the door handle, wait for a few seconds, then say to him “woof” and open the door. Soon when I said “outside” and stood at the door with my hand on the handle but not saying “woof”, he’d woof and the door would open. Magic! He’d caught on the “woof” means open the door. Any place we go now, I know if he barks once and stares at me it’s time to go outside.

These are just some examples. Key to success is the combination of clarity, consistency and frequency with any cues between you and your dog.