A Little Heavy on the Body English

Part 3 of  Dogs Notice Everything (The Missed Cue)

This is actually the human missing the cue. The dogs are understanding the cues beautifully, but these are cues I’m consciously trying not to give!

Around the time I made the Missed Cue videos, I got very interested in cue discrimination in general and worked on teaching Summer and Zani the difference between the verbal cues for Crate and Go to Mat. Since it is so easy to teach these with hand and body cues, my dogs didn’t really know the verbals, although I used them regularly. So I took a stab at teaching the discrimination and made a video of our progress. The methods in the movie are not bad, but my test of the results leaves quite a bit to desired.

In the spirit of the blog, I present the embarrassing part of the video, where I attempt to test Zani’s knowledge of the verbal cues. The whole point is to refrain from giving any physical indication of which item I want them to go, and I fail utterly at this.

To make it even more obvious I’ve turned off the sound for this short clip. Even a human can tell which behavior I am cuing by my body language every time. I not only fix my gaze on the object, but I turn my body slightly in that direction. And dogs are probably 10 times better at noticing those things than we are.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been the whole focus and point of the training!

Here is the above clip with sound on, in case you’d like to see it.

Does Your Dog REALLY Understand a Verbal Cue?

In case you want to test whether your dogs know a verbal cue, here’s Donna Hill of Vancouver Island Assistance Dogs showing how to do it correctly.

I’m making a goal for myself to teach some cues well enough to pass this test. The first step by itself,  teaching the dog to respond while I am out of sight, could be a challenge. This skill has to be taught gradually as well. Since my dogs can respond to some cues at a distance I’m hoping we have a good start on this.

Anybody else aware of cuing their dog without knowing it? It’s so easy to do. Want to share?

Discussions coming soon:

Thanks for reading!

Copyright 2012 Eileen Anderson

5 thoughts on “A Little Heavy on the Body English

  1. LOL. You and Zani are adorable in this. It looks to me like the Big Hint is what direction your feet are pointing. That’s something I learned from Trisha McConnell in one of her books (forget which) — that dogs pay attention to the direction of our feet. When I turn my back to the thing I’m trying to teach a cue for (currently, the phone), Barnum is totally baffled. If I turn my chair even a few inches to the side, so that I am still mostly with my back to it, he suddenly realizes it’s about the phone!
    I still can’t figure out why sometimes Barnum races to slam shut my door and other times he acts like I’m speaking Martian. I have tried fiddling with all the variables, but obviously there is a big neon sign flashing dog language that I’m missing.
    I enjoy your gentle self-deprecating humor.

    1. Sharon, where were you yesterday when I needed to title this post? The Big Hint! Great observation about the feet. I too (theoretically anyway) have learned about the feet. I went to an agility seminar a few years back and the presenter would stop us in our tracks when we sent our dogs to the wrong piece of equipment and say, “Look at your feet!” Invariably they would be pointing right where the dog went, even as we did something different with our arms and shoulders. I bet you’ll figure it out about Barnum (and then let us know, right?). Thanks for your kind words.

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