Teaching Your Dog to Respond to a Cue No Matter What You’re Doing
with Tressa Fessenden-McKenzie of PathandPaw, Training Advocate
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Okay, so you’ve taught your dog a new cue, you’ve begun working on teaching them not to offer unless you give the cue, now let’s have some fun with it. 


Most of us have a pretty predictable “training stance.” Usually we stand upright, we’re often wearing a treat pouch, and we’re facing our dog. Our dogs quickly learn to respond to their cues under these specific conditions. But real life often looks pretty different. I talk about this a lot with my expectant clients, who may want to give cues while doing things like rocking a baby, nursing, changing a diaper, etc, but it applies to anyone! Would you like to be able to use your verbal cues while carrying grocery bags? While relaxing on the couch? While washing the dishes? So we’re going to play a game, the format goes something like, can you (behavior), when I (body position or motion). 


The Game


Pick a behavior you’d like to strengthen. Some ideas may be sending your dog to station, recall, down or even just sit! It’s up to you! And you can, of course, repeat with all your other behaviors.  


Now try:


  • Can you give the cue with your hand on your hip?
  • Can you give the cue with your hand on your shoulder?
  • Can you give the cue with your hand on your head?
  • Can you give the cue with both hands on your head?
  • Can you give the cue with your hands in the air?
  • Can you give the cue with your body sideways?
  • Can you give the cue with your back partially turned?
  • Can you give the cue while leaning over?
  • Can you give the cue while seated in a chair?
  • Can you give the cue while seated on the floor?
  • Can you give the cue while standing on one leg?
  • Can you give the cue while laying on the floor?
  • Can you give the cue with your face against the wall?
  • Can you give the cue while laying on the sofa?


If the answer to any of these is no, avoid repeating yourself. Instead, find a way to make the body position more subtle initially. For example, instead of sitting right in the chair you could start by giving the cue while touching the back of the chair, then standing over the chair, then lowering yourself half way, then seated. 


I also do not recommend throwing all these challenging reps together in one big long session. Break it up with games and some fun and easy behaviors. The last thing we want is frustration! 


If your dog is really nailing it, you can take it up a notch and start adding movement in! 


  • Can you give the cue while walking? 
  • Can you give the cue while jumping up and down? 
  • Can you give the cue while doing jumping jacks?
  • Can you give the cue while kicking one leg out? 


These lists are just to get you started - get silly and creative with it! These are really fun exercises to get kids involved in, provided that your dog is very comfortable around them (a kid doing jumping jacks may be pretty freaky for some dogs!) When in doubt, start with an x-pen or baby gate up to make sure your dog stays calm during these exercises with a child involved. 


What other body positions have you tried? Are you brave enough to upload a video of a training session? I would love to see what you’ve been working on!