For the new AKC Cue Discrimination Exercise, your goal will be to teach your dog to listen to a specific position cue like sit, down or stand without creeping towards you.
How might you accomplish that?
First I would suggest separating out the challenges.
- Listening for the correct cue. Dogs are generally not very good at listening, so you will need to work on teaching the dog to respond correctly. You do have the option of combining the verbal with the hand signal, though I would suggest teaching each one individually and then combining them only as needed for an “extra strong” cue.
- Distance. Distance is the last thing I add to cue discrimination. Instead, I practice the positions up close, but I add varying levels of complexity. For example, can my dog sit on cue when they are on an uneven surface? Can my dog sit on cue when there’s a cookie on the floor nearby? You can check out this video if you want to understand that concept better:
- Don’t creep forward! Dogs tend to be motivated to get back to us, so the biggest challenge with doing positions at a distance is that the dog starts to creep in. This can be caused by calling our dog after we do our positions, but as often as not, it simply because our dogs want to return. Heck, we are the source of all good things! We have food, toys, and personality, so it’s understandable that our dogs are in a hurry to get back to us.
How can you teach your dog to perform positions at a distance without creeping in?
First, I like to teach my dogs to do their positions on a platform. That pretty much prevents the issue of creeping altogether, because the dog has no choice. When that is solid, I teach my dogs to perform with their front feet on a target. The idea is the same, except it’s a lot easier to fade it. The dog learns to hold their front feet still and work their rear end. This generally ends with a tuck sit and a fold back down.
When it’s time to start doing multiple positions in a row I like to back my dog up between cues. For example sit, back. Down, back. Etc. You get the idea.
When that looks okay, I combined the cues with the targets, moving backward. For example, ask the dog to sit with their feet on a target. Then back the dog onto the next target, and ask for a new position. Eventually, I also stop the dog between targets and ask for positions there as well. If I want to do a recall, I have the dog run around a cone behind them first so they are rarely reinforced for coming in directly.
Below is a video example.
One final note…consider working on a single position per target 90% of the time – the more you work several in a row, the higher the odds that the dog will start to worry and then you’ll see errors.
This video is unedited so you can see how I handle errors.