In our last video, Hazel and I showed you how to fade food lures. The next step would be to add a verbal cue. The reason we wait to add the verbal cue is simple: dogs aren’t born speaking our language, so it’s up to us to teach them what we want in a way that’s easier for them to understand first. Dogs are attracted to food (obviously!) and most will follow a hand signal readily if we have broken down the steps easily enough for them.

Before we add the verbal cue, we want to make sure that we have had enough successful repetitions with our hand signal first. This means that the dog is reliably performing the behavior we are asking for the majority of the time. If we add it too soon, we end up chanting the cue- “sitsitsitsitsit”- not very effective, and the dog becomes confused.

When we add the verbal cue, we want to make sure that we are using one that we don’t use for any other behaviors. An example of this would be only using “down” for laying down and not for stopping counter-surfing (I use “off” for that one). The word should apply only to the specific behavior we are looking for.

One really important thing to remember is to only say your cue one time and then wait. Sometimes, it takes a dog a few seconds to process what it is that we are asking for, even though we are still using our hand signal. We have faded the food and are adding a new component. Be patient and just wait. You’ll be amazed and so thrilled with your dog when you train your dog this way. You’ll both experience less frustration and learning will happen quicker!