Adding a verbal cue - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 02:30 AM Thread Starter
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Adding a verbal cue

How clear should a behavior be before a verbal cue is added? Just pet obedience. If you lure then reduce to very little help because the dog is successful, you add the verbal cue with that help(see below, it's a step out, then my hand comes a bit behind me), then dog trys with that tiny bit of help, but makes mistakes even minor, should you go back to non verbal or work it out keeping the verbal? Hopefully that makes sense. What I am asking about in particular is adding a verbal cue to the dog coming behind you going between your legs and sitting. Once I added the verbal is when the hiccup came. Most the time he gets it correct but sometimes he will come in between from the front or come all the way around and enter from the front. Just wondering if I should go back a step? I am sort of thinking going back so that he responds more to my legs moving then my hand movement, since my legs will be part of the body language cue.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 09:27 AM
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I think when you added the verbal cue, your non verbal cue\body language changed so it was no longer clear to him what to do.If he responds more quickly and accurately with non verbal,you could add the verbal and work on making your body language more subtle.If you were training to compete it would be "double handling" but for pet ob it's actually easier for your dog if you're "speaking" to them in their own language.

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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 09:59 AM
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I add the verbal cue when I see the dog understands what is expected. For instance, I'm teaching the down position to my puppy right now. she's starting to come in and anticipate the placement from where my hand is. Once I see that consistently, I will add the command without taking away the lure. Then I will start weaning out the lure. I do NOT take away the reward.

If you start weaning out the lure and he's missing it, then you either need to give him a minute to figure it out and help him if he needs it. that's the free shaping component of it. Once they make a decision on their own and get it right, you have a huge reward party

Or you need to go back to luring. But that decision is for you to make depending on what your dog is doing.




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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 11:24 AM
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It's not clear if you're adding a verbal cue to the lure that you're already doing or using it instead of. "Adding" sounds like you're doing both, which is what you should be doing, as Michelle describes above.

My progression is first to lure with a treat. I do this ONLY as long as I need to, then I transition to using the lure motion as a hand signal but without a treat in that hand. I still mark and reward, but with the other hand. Once that is reliable, I add the verbal cue. You want to use it before you use the hand motion, not at the same time or afterwards. Say the cue, wait a beat, then do your hand signal. The reason for this is that the verbal cue, which he doesn't know yet, becomes a predictor to the hand signal, which he does, and helps to associate the word with the behavior. I start extending that time between the two as the puppy starts to get the concept, so I may wait a couple of seconds after using the verbal cue, then as that step becomes successful, a few seconds more, basically starting to fade out the hand signal in favor of compliance with just the verbal cue.

Like Michelle, I also make a big deal out of it when the puppy gets it without assistance from a hand signal - lots of enthusiastic praise, several treats in succession. But don't rush that step, he may do it once and then take a little while before he does it every single time. Be patient and wait him out, but if it takes too long go ahead and occasionally give him a reminder of what the word means. Don't be in a hurry to fade out food rewards at any level of this process.

Also, even after he's consistently responding to the verbal cue alone in familiar, low distraction environments, he may still need some help in more distracting environments. I started agility classes with Dena when she was just over a year old. I had spent a lot of time training her by then and she did very well at home and in indoor classes, but this was outdoors on grass. Oh, the interesting smells! Even though she would immediately sit with a verbal cue pretty much anywhere else, I did have to lure her into a sit a few times at first because that was a novel and more challenging situation for her. With higher difficulty you may need to temporarily lower your criteria and increase your rate of reinforcement. This is not a step backwards.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 11:28 AM
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Initially I introduce the word as the behavior is happening. The dog can’t make a mistake. Then, the first few sessions after I’ve added a verbal cue before - I make sure the behavior is completed so that the dog is still successful. At first it might be the moment they stall so that the assistance is seamless.... eventually waiting them out briefly to see if they can figure it out. If they don’t, I still help them to complete the behavior before starting over (I’ll praise them for this but I wouldn’t click/mark or give food). Whatever happens following an introduction to a verbal cue - that’s what gets set in the dogs mind... so yes, go back a single step if needed, even if that’s removing the word.

So if you give the cue (in a case of progressing too fast) and the dog slowly walks over, sniffs the ground on the way, sits behind you then you say “come on” while wiggling your fingers and they move between your legs then lays down then you ask for a sit and then reward - you just gave the message that all of that was correct, and verbal word = that entire process of multitasking with an error and additional cues, etc, lol

EDIT: is the desire end behavior with or without a hand signal?
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Last edited by Fodder; 11-10-2018 at 11:41 AM.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 01:43 PM
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This is kind of a rushed answer, but think of the luring as separate of the physical cues but used together. Don't rush fading out the physical cue.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 02:55 PM Thread Starter
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I apologize for being unclear. Probably why my dog is confused lol.
I am adding the verbal cue and still using the lure. When I lure, first I step out then lure.

No its be still, verbal, step out, lure. It's down to very little of a lure. Small hand movement kind of sweeping back behind me. Just enough to move the dog in that direction.

He offers the behavior when I am just standing around sometimes. He is confused a bit coming in the from the front. I am certainly rewarding the correct position. As long as he is motivated by food I will provide. Yes my lure hand has a treat. This is all at home inside. He is engaged.

The desired end behavior would be without the hand signal, but I have the body language cue of stepping out, to help make the cue loud. I like Fodders example of moving to fast made me LOL. Also excellent information to always have in mind. The behavior is clean he does it pretty well. It's not the most beautiful perfect sit. I am short he is tall. It's just me learning how to do this process so when we get to the ones that matter most, I know what I am doing with this dog.

If I give the verbal a couple more days and we don't improve so I step back no verbal, more help, maybe add/tweak some of the suggestions here trying to be more clear is that ok?
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 03:36 PM
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Personally I wouldn’t give it a few days, you can tell right away if she’s progressing.... I jump around and make adjustments within the same session. Sessions always ending at whatever point the dog can be sussessful, independently. (I don’t mean independent of teaching tools, I mean without experiencing getting stuck then getting help).

Also, unless I’m misunderstanding you, if your dog is offering the behavior then it sounds like you’re past the point of needing a lure!?

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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 03:51 PM
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Video your session. You may be doing something without realizing you are doing it.


If my dog is struggling to complete the full behavior I will break it down and reinforce more pieces vs. only the complete behavior. If I want my dog to circle around and come in between my legs I may mark and reinforce for coming towards me, then moving behind me, then coming between my legs. This also makes it easier to break out a weak part of a behavior and fix it. If your dog is struggling to move around behind you from a certain angle you can break that part out and build reinforcement and understanding then add it back into the end behavior.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 11-10-2018, 04:19 PM Thread Starter
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Sorry when I say he offered the behavior I was unclear again! He will sometimes come in from behind sometimes come in from the front. It's the point of entry he is confused about. Perhaps I'll go back to filming.
If a dog is offering a behavior at random why would you not need a lure anymore?
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