Self Control – Waiting for the Cue

Most clients would like to know how to stop their dog from chasing squirrels or how not to pull on the leash. Those questions are somewhat easy to answer with a well-laid training plan.

A few days ago, I was asked a different sort of question that I found much more difficult to answer.

Identifying the Issues

This client’s agility dog struggled with several issues: separation anxiety, counter surfing, start line problems, bar knocking, and a few other things.

The underlying comment I made to her was that her dog lacked self-control. Of course, then she asked how to develop self-control. As I thought about an answer, I realized how huge the answer would be. I couldn’t answer that without a lot more thought.

Learning Self-Control

In general, my dogs have great self-control. They weren’t born with it. It has been instilled in every fabric of their life.

Learning cues like “leave it” help. But my dogs also know that just because they see something they want, it doesn’t mean it’s there for the taking.

Games like “It’s Your Choice” by Susan Garrett and “Nothing In Life in Free” are also great self-control ideas.

So thanks to this smart student, I will be doing a series on implementing self-control. I will be using Rodie, my recent puppy addition, for this series since self-control is what we work on day after day.

Waiting for the Cue

Our first lesson will be about “Waiting for the Cue”.

It’s often the case that when we teach dogs a new behavior, that’s all they want to do. If you teach them to High Five, soon they can’t respond to sit or down without doing the High Five. Then grandma comes to visit, reaches down to pet your dog, and she gets slapped in the face with High Five.

In our classes, this is how learning new behaviors go:

  1. Shape behavior with click/treats (lure only if needed)
  2. Add cue once dog can offer the full behavior
  3. Teach dog to wait for the cue (no longer rewarding offered behavior)

As you will see in this video, Rodie struggles with many concepts. Rodie has three behaviors on cue pretty reliably: Sit, Down, & Kennel.

Now the challenge is to get him to wait, listen, and respond to the correct cue given. The problem is he likes Down WAY better than anything else and thinks everything should be down. He also thinks he should throw me a Down at any given moment.

Getting dogs to understand the concept of “Waiting For The Cue” will create a thoughtful dog who listens to their human and has the beginnings of self-control. Take it slow, be patient, and have a sense of humor.

Laurie Zurborg, CPDT, Founder

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