Verbal Fun: Text Instruction:
Goal: This game will help establish for your dog, that even when he is aroused he must THINK through the arousal and respond! Is your dog listening to your cues in the presence of simple distractions, moving distractions or while looking away from you? The use in agility will be at full speed can your dog discriminate the verbal cues you are giving him.
Equipment: Toy and Food Rewards.
Suggested Training Area Size: 12’ x 12’ (4m x 4m)
Step 1: Confidence building. Start on leash. The beginning layer is rewarding your dog’s cue to your first request. Do this stationary and then moving. Use your control positions of “sit” and “down” for this game. You will ask for these simple tasks while adding the arousal with just the simple presence of your dog’s favourite toy or food.
Step 2: Change the cue (if you used “sit” now use “down”) look for the dog's response. This stage is at low arousal. Mistakes are ok! Just take the collar lightly and wait for your dog’s response. If you have to take your dog’s collar, use praise for his decision to respond to your cue. Only when you do not have to help him will you reward him with his highest reinforcer. Work this stage till your dog is successful at this low level of arousal.
Step 3: Add a small amount of arousal. The example with Decaff is just a small amount of movement at the same time as adding a cue will act as elevating your dog’s arousal.
Step 4: Increasing the intensity! Higher arousal, more cues. Spin a toy or toss a piece of food up and down in your hand while cuing a simple but strongly reinforced behaviour like a “sit” or “down”. What is your dog’s choice? Does he immediately respond or does he freeze with the presence of the distraction? What is your dog’s response? Errors are handled just as in Step 2. This stage teaches the parameters of “listen to my cues”.
Build confidence in all these stages, as you make it harder remember to CELEBRATE the successes!
Troubleshooting: If your dog is not listening to his “sit” or “down” cue you may want to take the training away from this game. Add reinforcement for your dog doing simple sit and down requests and then come back to Step 1 and Step 2.