Training How-To: Adding a Cue

Teaching the Sit Cue The cue “sit” was only added when we were willing to bet $10 that this puppy would put her bum on the ground immediately after we said it.

What is a cue? A cue is a name or label for a particular behavior. It is the “green light” for the dog that tells it “perform that behavior now to get rewarded”. Once a behavior is on cue, the dog should only offer it upon perceiving the cue.

The most common examples of cues in dog training are words like “sit” or “down,” or hand signals that prompt the same behavior.

What should I choose for my cue?

Cues should be able to be given consistently, perceivable by the animal, distinct from other cues the animal already knows, not confused with praise or other meanings, and easy to transfer to others.

Spoken words and hand signals make popular cues because they meet all of these criteria, and that is what we generally use. However, a cue can be anything your dog is capable of perceiving, which allows you to get creative!

In our Nosework classes, the presence of a particular odor acts as the dog’s cue to indicate to her handler that she has discovered the source.

How do I teach a cue?

To start, make sure the dog is offering the behavior consistently. We do not add a cue to a behavior until the dog knows how to perform it without lures or prompts from you. When you are willing to bet $10 that your dog is going to offer that behavior, it is time to add the cue.

Just before your dog offers the behavior, quietly say the word or make a […]