Favorite “Non-Traditional Cues,” Part II

Wow. You all are amazing. So far there have been 165 answers to the question posed two weeks ago, “What’s Your Favorite Non-Traditional Cue?” I’ve read through every one of them with great interest (and often amusement). My plan was to go through all the comments, list every cue mentioned with it definition (some people included as many as 7 or 8), and see if I could  find some patterns.

Several hours later, and less than a fifth through all the cues mentioned, I suspected that a smart person might want to modify the plan. So that’s what I’ve done, whether either out of laziness or wisdom, I couldn’t tell you. I’m using the list I’ve generated so far as a sample, and have re-read all the rest of the comments that have been so thoughtfully provided.

Here’s what I’m seeing so far: First, the most common “non-traditional” cue appears to be “Wait.” It has several variants as to its exact intention, but in all cases the dog is being asked to pause or not move forward. Much more casual and less directive than a stay, I find this an invaluable cue that I myself use every day–at the door, at the car, while walking down a trail, etc. etc. It’s part of the curriculum in Family Friendly Dog Training, so I guess it’s clear that I think it would be good if it moved from “non-traditional” to “traditional.” It’s just so darn handy.

Another category of commonly used cues not often seen in standard dog training is the set of cues telling a dog either that an event is over (“Enough, All Done, All Gone”— ie, no more ball play, no more treats) or to go entertain him or herself (“Settle, Go Settle, Go to Your Place, Chill, Go Pass Out!”) These also seem to me to be incredibly useful cues that all dog owners (and dogs) would profit from knowing.  I use “Enough” several times a day, usually meaning that object play is over, but I as I’m writing this I realized I use a variant, “That’s Enough,” to mean “No more petting.” At first I assumed that Willie didn’t know the distinction, (since I only noticed it while writing this), but perhaps he knew it long before I did?

Notice that, in the variants of Settle, the dog can either decide him or herself to find a place to settle down, or go to a specific area taught in the past. I use Settle myself, meaning go anywhere you want, but for the love of all things good and true, please lie down and chill out for awhile.

The other most common group of cues relate to moving in space: “Turn Around, This Way, Up, Move Over, Back Out, Beep (my favorite!), Go Around,” etc. etc. These strike me as extremely useful as well, although more specific to individual owners and dogs.

One cue, mentioned by a few and one that I have discussed before is “Ready.” I truly wish more people would use this as a way of helping a dog understand what is about to happen. It can be used to prime a dog for action, as it often is in Agility, but also as I use it more often, to let a dog know that something is about to happen, especially if it involves being touched or handled. I use it for Willie when I am about to do something to him, like pick up a paw to dry it off. This gets into another conversation we could have about the balance between keeping cues short and sweet (very valuable at times) and not overwhelming a dog with meaningless chatter AND, at other times, using words to have interchanges with dogs that are more like conversations than a set of “commands.” I’m a fan of both…. Hummm, I’ll have to think about when and why I use different approaches.

While we ponder that, here are some of my favorite cues from the comments about non-traditional cues:

Whoopsie What you just did wasn’t what I wanted, try again.

Who’s a Goof? Roll in the Grass.

Be Bad (Okay, that’s mine, for jump up and put your paws on my chest.)

Who’s a Brave Girl? Go stand between my legs.

Use Your Words or Tell Me Your Story Bark

Sweetheart, can you put your Stagbar on the rug please? Self explanatory!

And What Should You Be Doing? Go lie on your rug

Watch Out for the Panty Hose! 4 on the floor

Chip! Really? As in, did you really just go into the garbage? Dog now puts his paws over his head.

There are a gazillion more, I encourage you to read through them if you haven’t, but it seems appropriate to end on the most unique one I could find:

Gheresh Bede or Farsi for “shake your booty”

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Two inches of rain last weekend! Amazing! Some people got even more (and northern Wisconsin got snow, lots of it. Oh my.) Everything is so green now it’s hard to imagine it was ever brown. My pasture is still in rough shape, but the front lawn looks like it sprung to life except in a few places. All I can say is that the sheep are very, very happy.

Last Friday Willie was in his last sheepdog trial of the year. I’d say the results were mixed. I purposefully only ran a partial course with him in order to protect his shoulder. I leave tomorrow for a sheepdog training clinic with Patrick Shannahan, and I wanted to be extra sure that Willie was sound enough to work in the clinic. I also wanted him to leave the course wanting more, since the last two trials he was in were exceptionally difficult and stressful for all the dogs. This time his first run didn’t start well: Although he’d appeared to focus on the sheep in previous runs, when we walked to the post he kept looking in the direction of another group of sheep. (Your first job at a trial is ensuring that your dog can find the sheep where they are set out. This is harder than you might think. There are two other groups of sheep, and novice dogs often focus on those rather than the tiny little specks out in the distance.) Willie looked at everything but at the sheep he needed to work, and we messed around for what seemed like forever at the post until I finally just gave up and sent him in the belief that he’d go to the wrong group of sheep.

Nope, he did a perfect outrun to the right group, but by then the sheep had broken away from the dog and handler trying to hold them in place (who must have been cursing me, justifiably, believe me).  Willie didn’t get them back on line until he was pretty close to me, but he did, I stopped him, settled the sheep and said “That’ll Do.” He left the field happy and grinning and his shoulder looked good, so we did our second run a few hours later.

This time I sent him right away, and he did a perfect outrun again. Again the sheep broke from the handler  before he got to them, this time not our fault, but probably not the set out handler’s either: they were extremely flighty sheep. Again, Willie didn’t “cover” them, or flank around them far enough to get them back on line. He had no excuse for that, except his nerves: That’s what you see in dogs without enough confidence to directly confront a flock of sheep dead set on thundering back to the barn. He did get them to me however, pacing nicely as he got closer. We did a little drive which went relatively well, and then on the cross-drive Willie stopped, like a 1960’s civil disobedience protester, and stood still while looking at me and ignoring every signal I sent his way. Honestly, it was almost funny, except I’m quite sure Willie stopped because he was too anxious to continue. The sheep had to be moved directly toward the barn, exactly the direction in which Willie knew the sheep wanted to take off and run to. It’s very scary for dogs to feel in control of sheep if the sheep are moving AWAY from them and from their handler, and it takes guts and courage for dogs to learn to drive unfamiliar sheep on unfamiliar courses at a good distance from their handlers.

Ah, you know how much I love my Willie Boy, but I’m afraid “guts and courage” are not words one would use to describe him. The “Woody Allen of Sheepdogs” would be more like it: brilliant but ridden with angst. We’ll see how the clinic goes this weekend. I don’t want to run Willie in trials if they just distress him, but I would like learn to help him be as good as he could be. Even though his work at the trial had some serious flaws, we did well enough that we didn’t leave feeling badly. He seemed upbeat and happy all day, I had a good time and got some good experience under my belt. I can’t wait for the clinic, it should be lots of fun and very interesting. And to those of you who were there, I still can’t stop singing “Keep rolling, rolling, rolling, keep them doggies rolling, RawHIIIIIIIDE.” Sigh.

Things at the farm are good. It’s still gorgeous even though many of the leaves have fallen. We got another half inch of rain yesterday… will wonders never cease? Tootsie is a happy girl, except for this morning, during which she spent part of the time in the kitchen sink because she had diarrhea all over herself. And me. You all know how that goes. I think it was just a glitch, that she’ll be fine in the future, and am oh so grateful that I can wash her off in the sink. Very handy at 6 am in your bathrobe.

Nellie and Polly are good. Too good. Polly took one look at her momma being put into a carrier crate in order to go to the vet clinic for vaccinations, and darted up a tree. Here she is: Wanna play Find the Kitty? (And don’t worry, she was down the minute we came home and I let her mum out of the crate.)


  1. Beth with the Corgis says

    Love the cues! I must say that I use “wait” and “ready” so often that I guess I’ve come to think of them as “traditional”, but then we do agility and those are pretty common cues in that sport.

    I also use “time for bed!’ to put them in their crates, but that is just a variant on a very common cue with many different words (kennel up, bed, crate, etc all used to mean the same thing).

    I also use back up a lot, though Jack gets it more than Maddie (Maddie thinks it’s particular to doors). Since you had posted about that, I did not mention it either.

    Mine seem to know “Want to go on the deck?” (we have a fully fenced in deck with a locking gate, so we all can sit out and enjoy it, dogs included) but it may just be other contextual information that gets their interest there.

    I have found that if Maddie does not respond to a “come” request, saying “Good boy Jack!!” will get her running to me every time.

    For my male especially, “Leave it” not only means “drop it” or “don’t pick it up”, it also means “don’t pee on that” and “stop sniffing that.” Funny how they can seem to generalize some concepts so broadly.

  2. LarryC says

    That reminds me of a very soft dog I adopted years ago. She had been abused as a pup, I think by a 9 year old girl who didn’t understand dog training. The “come” command caused her to run away and hide, since she had been called and punished, called and punished, and had learned that “come” meant time for pain. I substituted “here” and she quickly learned good recall.

    That poor dog was terrified of everything, I think because she had been zapped with an e-collar when she had no idea what she was being punished for. It took over a year for her to quit being afraid of fences, which was a real problem in the country.

    One funny thing was obedience training her, which she came to love. Every walk would end with a quick 5 minute obedience session. After a while, when she was letter perfect on every command, I started slacking off on the training sessions. She started hiding in the bushes and forcing me to go through the obedience commands. It was my game, and we were going to play it. :)

  3. liz says

    Brief cat in a tree story:
    While hiking a forested section of a large nature preserve, my dogs and I turned a corner to encounter a cat on the trail. Being that dogs are allowed off leash at certain times of the year, they were about ten feet ahead of me. I quickly asked for a “sit” (which is defined as place your butt on the ground regardless of your proximity to me), followed by stay, which was all I could come up with at the time. Our retreat would’ve been the better option, because a tense staring contest between the dogs and cat led to the kitty bolting up the nearest tree.
    Ever-hyper Nala dog hooted and hollered at the collarless calico while dancing around the base of the tree. We continued on trail, though for a while she bounced from tree to tree looking up each trunk, as if to say, “OMG, cats could be up here! I had no clue!” And so the notion was born that all trees suddenly could contain cats. Thankfully she has since shaken it, but there is no such luck for forgetting the whereabouts of squirrels.

    The story reminds me how much I value a solid ‘remote sit,’ where dogs don’t tie together the act of sitting with coming to the owner. Although it wasn’t the best choice above as it didn’t calm the cat enough, I use ‘sit’ this way almost daily. Perhaps it is another conversation of non-traditional aspects of traditional cues…

    Off the top of my head, I use short and sweet cues when I want to clearly communicate to the dogs regardless of present company. I use more conversational cues when around other people, when I believe that my intent is to communicate to both the people and the dogs.

  4. Annie R says

    I LOVE using “wait” — it means stop where you are and focus on me until I tell you what to do next, and it’s perfect in my rather urban setting where we have relatively short blocks, as we come up to the many corners as we take walks. Very useful for allowing my two fairly well-behaved dogs to walk off leash for awhile; they can get a house-length or two ahead and when we get close to a corner I say “wait” and they do. The Husky mix especially loves to be able to go ahead of the rest of the group (sometimes we walk with other dogs and owners) as if she is “breaking trail”, so this allows her to do her favorite thing and still be safe and let me catch up. Such a pleasure to see her prancing ahead and then stopping to look back at us as we arrive at the corner.

    I first heard of the “wait” in a book called “Beyond Obedience” written by April Frost who has a pack that she walks on a trail; she can stop the whole pack when needed. Made me wonder why I had never thought of actually teaching a “stop and let me catch up” behavior. It’s so much more useful than “stay”; my two really don’t need “stay” much. I’ve also used “wait” at the vet’s office; we walk up to the scale, I say “wait” and the dog stops in a standing position long enough for the scale to register. And in loading the car, they walk out with me, I open the car door or tailgate and say “wait” until I’m ready for them to jump in; when we arrive and I’ve parked, I say “wait” as I open the tailgate so they don’t jump out too quickly.

    I can see why many dog-people have figured this out and use it a lot; I would agree that it is likely to become a more “conventional” command. It is so useful in a variety of settings; keeping a dog from rushing out the gate of a suburban yard while you carry something through; having a dog stop and just stand still while you buy an item from a street vendor in the city (I have even seen dogs wait outside a business, unleashed, while owners go in and make a quick purchase, like at the bakery or coffee place where the dog isn’t permitted inside); getting a country dog to stop before going through a gate or into a barn door (I noticed how you used “get back” for that with Will). And in multi-dog families, getting one to wait while another loads up into the car first, or gets their leash attached, etc. So practical!

  5. says

    I love this question! Reggie is black lab/greyhound mix and has a penchant for squirrels and rabbits. He learned “ignore”. When we are walking or in the backyard and you see the ears perk and the tail go up he gets the command “ignore” so he doesn’t take off after the small game that has caught his eye (he once damaged his ACL doing this- that’s when the command came in to play!)

    One is more of a visual cue. I live in an urban neighborhood where at each corner block there are the red tactile warning pads for visually impaired persons. Reggie has been taught to stop and sit at each corner with no voice command from me. Sometimes he forgets and I need to give a little tug on the leash (he always stops). People think he’s some kind of wonder dog!

    The funniest I think is at bed time when I tell him “go get your guy” and he tears apart his toy box to make just the right selection of toy for the night and then runs upstairs and jumps in bed for the night. Each night it’s a different toy!

  6. Laura says

    Seamus and I are still working on “Beep,” and he’s understanding it more and more. It’s evolved into “beep beep” in the house and I think that one is even funnier. I’ve realized lately, that I’ve been teaching Seamus a cue called “Couch,” which means that I want him to get onto the couch and lay down. I use it when he won’t stop puttering around me, the livingroom, anywhere and I want him to settle down. Perhaps it’ll turn into a catch-all for settle? anyway, I’m also working on a stronger stay with him because he is not very polite when being invited onto the bed. He’ll stay, but only for a minute or so and then he launches himself onto the bed and onto me when ‘m not ready for him. I’m not used to this, having had a very polite previous dog who, naturally, would not jump onto the bed until I said ok and patted the covers. Then he would curl up at my feet and snooz. Not this golden monster who bounds onto the bed and lands on me, refusing to move because it’s so good to be as close to Mom as possible. He’ll get it, he’s young and we’ll learn together.

  7. Cindy says

    Switching my gsd from obedience to herding necessitated some changes in the words I used. I say ‘with me’ instead of ‘heel’ and ‘nice job’ instead of ‘good boy’ since that praise usually came with a treat. When he does something that I haven’t specifically asked him to do I say ‘thank you’ so he knows he made a decision that is pleasing to me, rather than obeying a command. I’ve found ‘that’ll do’ has many uses from telling him that’s enough barking at the UPS truck or we’re done playing frisbee as well as he’s done herding. As others have said, ‘wait’ is invaluable! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that says ‘Really???!!’ or “Are you kidding me??’ My dog definitely gets the idea that I wasn’t pleased with what he just did it’s but not so much of a reprimand as a ‘no’ or ‘bad dog’ would be.

    I love his reaction to ‘nice job’ – he looks so proud of himself and his whole body seems to absorb those two words more than any others. He knows I appreciate the way he’s handled his responsibility, even if it’s just going to his bed while I answer the door all the way up to moving the sheep around the course. He has a look of confidence and quiet pride rather than the wiggly kissy face the ‘good boy’ gets.

  8. Mary says

    Love hearing about your trialing experiences with Willie. Your explanations of what’s going on in his mind due to circumstances gives me insight as to what my dog could be thinking/feeling (since mine is also not about “guts and courage”). Thanks.

  9. Kat says

    I’m realizing that I’ve always kind of sorted cues into three categories 1) formal such as you’d use in an obedience ring (sit, stay, down, heel, etc.) 2) living together cues that make life together more convenient (wait, off, beep, etc.) and tricks (shake hands, high five, speak, etc.) My dogs know some of each but it’s the second category that has the cues I use all the time. I couldn’t cope if my dogs didn’t know “finished,” “wait,” and “beep.” On the other hand if they never learned a reliable stay or heel we could still get along just fine as long as they’ve mastered wait and learned to walk politely on a leash. I should add that I believe every dog needs a rock solid “stop” from any distance. Knowing it can be used to save my dogs’ life it’s one I practice a lot. Thankfully I’ve never had to use it to keep them from getting killed but it still came in mighty handy when Ranger was playing with pals off leash in the main part of the park (not the fenced dog park area) and he saw a family with small children. He adores kids and took off running toward them. 90 lbs of off leash dog heading at full speed toward your kids has got to make any parent worry. I yelled “Ranger, STOP” and he stopped dead in his tracks. “Wait” and he stayed put until I caught up and put his leash on then walked him over to the family and asked if they’d like to meet him. Having just seen a great demonstration of him being well trained they were happy to meet him and love all over him. He ended up taking the two older kids (4 and 6 would be my guess) for a walk around the park. He went wherever he wanted but was polite enough not to take the leash away or drag them along. A good time was had by all. Having him stop was much more effective than yelling “It’s OK he’s friendly” as I vainly tried to catch up and gain some control. Maybe it’s just me but when the person is yelling “It’s OK he’s friendly” I’m hearing “I’m not competent enough to train my dog.”

  10. Donna in VA says

    One problem with being accustomed to using so many cues is that I’m now needing to come up with hand signals for each of them because Max is losing his hearing. We learned hand signals for the conventional cues in class. I’m just making up signals for the additional cues I want to use.

    I have noticed he seems to interpret some types of hand motion better than others. My original invented signal for “quiet” never seemed to catch on. I now use a different signal (open hand, palm down, changing quickly to a fist – as if I was wrapping my fingers around his muzzle – which I have done for emphasis) which he seems to relate to. He’s very good at interpreting beckoning (come with me) and pointing directions (go there).

  11. says

    I don’t think I responded to the first post, because I just couldn’t think of a non-traditional cue I use. I guess I was wrong, since variants of “wait” and “ready” are the few in Peach’s repertoire. “And what should you be doing?” reminded me that every time I break out the Marrobones and Peach sits down for it, I ask her, “And what do you do?” and she shoots into her crate. I’d never even considered it a non-traditional cue… Just a habit =)

  12. Margaret McLaughlin says

    Like a lot of obedience people, I started using “Ready!” as a praise word, since the judge always names the exercise, asks if you have any questions, & then says, “Are you ready?” The theory was that if the dog already associated the word with praise you would start each exercise with a happy dog.
    For my dogs,”wait” means ‘hold your position until I cue you to do something else’–an agility start line, or recall–& “stay” means ‘hold that position until I come back’. Since both words contain a long “A” sound, have often wondered if my dogs could tell the difference, or if it were only important to me, helping me to keep my non-verbal cues straight (for a recall I stand with my feet together & arms down; for a stay it’s feet apart & arms folded).
    I’ve been taking a Rally class with Nina, & tho’ it’s not my favorite sport we have developed a useful now cue, “Backit!” for left turns, be they 90 degrees, 270 or 360, & it translates to “I’m moving into your space. Watch your toes, & stay in heel position.” She already knows I’m a klutz.

  13. Gail says

    The most helpful non-traditional cue I have is, “You’re fine.” I didn’t train this on purpose, but it turned out to be a great tool. I say it to my dog-reactive (and generally fearful) dog when he starts to get stressed in certain situations, such as at class when someone walks their dog too closely. He’s almost eleven now, and after years of behavior modification and many rereads of “The Cautious Canine,” we’re pretty in sync. Instead of snarling and lunging, he’ll look at me for guidance when something starts to worry him. I calmly say, “You’re fine,” and almost without exception, he’ll visibly relax and behave normally. I used this for years before realizing how helpful it was for my boy. What a slow learner – ME, not him!

  14. KT Howard says

    My favorite for my guy is “Be an otter guy” at which point he either slithers and slides in the snow(winter), in the grass(summer, if we can find any grass), or he sticks his head under water and splashes about(in the river).
    “Wait” should be traditional, as should “Ready”. I use “This way” a lot to inform him that a change of direction is coming up. I also use “Who’s that?” when out walking so that he stops to assess who is approaching and it gives me time to have him lie down if I don’t want him running up to the person or dog.

  15. says

    I’m sure it’s been covered before but, speaking to a puppy walker from Guide Dogs to the Blind, they use the word ‘off’ as compared to many domestic uses of the word ‘down’. Ergo – causes confusion to the dogs, who hearing the ‘down’ command, take it as a lie down. Wouldn’t it be great if all commands were used for the same purpose? I too use the most commonly depicted commands here and my daycare dogs now respond to those too. But, who knows what commands the owners use? How confusing for the dogs. Never mind our facial expressions whilst issuing the commands!!

  16. Essie says

    I agree about ‘wait’. I never thought of it as non-traditional. We use it all the time usually going down stairs since my dogs’ first thought going outside is to bound down the stairs, not so great for the person holding the leash. We also use it when going down a steep slope on a hike or walk, wait for the slow clumsy biped, and also for getting in/out of the car since they like to throw themselves against the car before the door is open (sigh) and for safely waiting to be released before getting out of the car.
    Gail’s “you’re fine” is similar to my “you’re safe”. I use this very matter of factly with rescue dogs to let them know that whatever is going on is no big deal, and also with my sound-sensitive border collies who become stressed by firecrackers or cars backfiring.

  17. MaudeeLou says

    I love “wait” as a cue. it definately comes in handy in the multi dog house hold, at the door getting out of the car. The other word I use with our agility training is “EASY”, which means to slow down, like when she is barral down the A-frame at full speed or when we are on a walk and she is coming to the end of the lead and I don’t want her to choke herself.

  18. Chaya says

    Love the cues! My in-laws lab is very stubborn and often refuses to come when called. (Fault is on the humans and their minimal dedication to training.) However, I have learned that he comes 100% of the time when you say “UH OH” in a really excited voice. Turns out that is what my mother in law says every time she finds a big stick to throw.

  19. Danielle says

    Been reading through both sets of comments and was reminded of two very non-traditional cues my parents’ Golden mix used to know.

    “Did Timmy fall down the well?” essentially meant to run around barking like a crazy dog and check out all the front windows to see who might be walking by.

    And, “Let’s go pull an Old Yeller,” meant that we were headed out to the shed in the backyard and she was to come with us.

    It should be said that we have a rather odd sense of humor in my family. My current dog also knows “go to jail” in place of the words kennel or crate.

  20. says

    I too didn’t respond to the first post, but wanted to mention my non-traditional cue of “here.”

    I use it mostly when I’m about to give my dogs something like a treat, ball or toy. If my female dog steals the treat meant for my male, I’ll say “here” right before I give him his much deserved replacement treat. It works well if I need the dogs to check in with me if I’m trying to get their attention before they see something I know they’ll react to.

    I also use “up” to cue them to jump into the car.

  21. Emily says

    I’d love to hear more about your experiences with herding clinics. I’m new and have the bug. I recently attended two clinics and would love to hear more about the instructors you’ve been learning from. Have fun!

  22. Michele says

    I never thought of the ‘wait a second’ cue — I use “hold, please” — as non-traditional. When my pit mix was first learning to walk on a leash, it was among the first cues she understood, and I still use it all the time.

    In games, I say “and what do we do?” to hint that she needs to sit politely to get a toy, and by now I think this phrase could replace “sit” in her vocabulary.

  23. says

    “Let’s go pull an Old Yeller.” I’m still laughing at that… awesome! Anyway, I had a question about another cue. It might be traditional at this point, but do people use “OK” a lot? I use it all the time with seamus, as a realse from something usually. It really means sever things, Obedience is over, we’re done training, you now have permition to go get that toy you wanted. It realeases him from doing something formal to just being himself and doing what he wants. Does anyone else use it in this context or do people use something else?

  24. em says

    I am still loving this discussion! Somehow, the little, personal variations in cues are just so evocative to me- I really feel like I am catching a glimpse into the warm, living relationships that people have with their dogs. I always smile when I see familiar ones like “all the way,” and ‘what do we do?’, too.
    I use too many conversational cues to count, so I won’t even try to list them all, but my favorite that I haven’t seen yet is ‘on deck.’ It started as shorthand for ‘move clear of the door but stay up here on our front deck rather than starting down the steps while I lock up’, but it was so handy to wrap ‘go ahead’ and ‘wait’ into one cue and I liked the metaphor so much that I now use it whenever I want the dogs to move ahead of me across an obstacle but then to pause and wait for me until I give them the ‘let’s go!’

    It’s useful off leash when we cross narrow bridges or steep inclines since it frees me from having to watch and ask for a ‘wait’ while I’m simultaneously trying to concentrate on negotiating slippery footing. It’s also great on leash as we negotiate double doors at the vet’s office (big dog+small space=complicated doorway manipulation involving holding the first door open with my foot while reaching over Otis’ head for the second, then making sure the first door shuts before moving through the second myself. The fact that he and Sandy have a well-practiced cue for ‘go through and wait on the other side’ is really helpful).

    I am also pleased to report that in the sock-putting-on department, my habitual cue of ‘sit’ for Sandy has become an automatic behavior- putting on socks, even without any eye contact, hand gestures, or vocal cues, is now acted on as a cue for ‘sit’. Yesterday, in fact, I noticed her sitting prouldly, precisely in the middle of the living room floor, her gaze eagerly locked on my face. After a brief moment of wondering what in the world she was doing, I realized that I was putting on my fuzzy house socks- an action that, unlike donning my outside socks, had never previously triggered the excited wiggle/nose bump/ hand and face licking dance that prompted my initial redirection campaign. Even though this was a context in which I had never had to ask for a sit because she had never been a pest, she generalized: socks + sit=praise and attention! If she could speak, well-rewarded Sandy, volunteer sitter, would no doubt be pleased to report that her human training program is coming along nicely. :-)

  25. Angela says

    I didn’t think I had any non-traditional cues until I thought about it for a week, and then I realized I do have a few; the seemingly-ubiquitous ‘wait’, of course, as well a ‘woah’, which I use to signal my on-leash dog that we are slowing down or stopping for a moment (I do not require that he heels when we are just out walking, so he’s usually ahead of me). I use the latter after exiting my front door, to let him know that we are pausing while I lock it, or when going through a gate, so I can turn around and close the gate behind me.

    ‘In you go” started out as a cue to go into his crate but I generalized it to mean the crate, x-pen, or his crate in the car. I used to use ‘crate’ as the cue for this with past dogs, but it sounds… unpleasant to humans, so I changed it for my latest pup.

    At night, when I say, “It’s puppy bedtime!” he runs from wherever he is in the house into his x-pen where he waits until I close the gate (and usually scatter a few treats in as a bedtime snack).

    I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s cues. It’s given me a few ideas for new things to train–not that I’m lacking in that department, with a 17 month old high-energy pup!

  26. Chris from Boise says

    Habi doesn’t do particularly well with other dogs, and especially not so well when she’s surprised by them (even at a distance). We’re working through this, but it takes me being constantly alert to make sure that we handle situations appropriately. We also use Gail’s “you’re fine” as a reassurance that she doesn’t really need to get all spun up about something, and the most-used tool in our ever-growing toolbox is Leslie McDermott’s “Look!” as in “Look, then refocus on me for a treat”. The non-traditional part is that if I spot a dog in the distance before she does, I say “Look, a chihuahua!”. Not because she knows what a chihuahua is, but because it makes me laugh, and if I’m going into the situation relaxed, everything goes better than if I’m saying to myself “Oh, s***, now what do we do?”

  27. says

    I know I am way late on comments for this post but….One of my non-traditional cues is “This Side”. I walk my dogs on 26 foot flexies when it is just us out for a long walk (never at an agility trial or public area where a flexi can get you in unexpected trouble). Invariably we will come across a tree here or there where the dog’s current path is going to be on the other side of the tree, thereby causing the leash to wrap around the tree. I taught my guys that when I say “This Side”, it means to pass the tree on the same side I am on. It’s also helpful on a short leash when they go to pee on a tree and then go around the backside as part of their normal moving on. I’ve found it to be helpful in lots of situations where the dog might choose to go around an obstacle on the other side than me.

  28. Tamsin says

    I loved reading these two articles and people’s replies!

    I had to respond even though my experience is with my pony, but he had a very similar map of “non-traditional” cues. He was a 20 year old Icelandic gelding (who I very sadly lost at the end of Sept this year), and he knew the following:

    – beep beep (for moving out of my space)
    – whoop! (for that wasn’t what I wanted!)
    – this side (for changing which side of me he walked)
    – bring me the saddle (for targetting the saddle to my body on the mounting block)
    – where should your nose be? (usually meant keep his nose in position, not nudging my pocket!)
    – all done (for end of training session)
    – wait (usually for ‘I’m busy doing something, but I’m coming back’)
    – this way/that way
    – ready?

    (Following on from the other post about dogs telling stories, my pony also had a “joke” that he told: if he was getting impatient waiting being tied up outside his stable (waiting for his dinner, for example), he would wait until I wasn’t watching and then get one front leg over the lead rope, so that when I came out of the stable/barn, he would be standing there going: “Look what happened, mum! I’m stuck! No idea how that happened! Perhaps you’d better unclip me, eh?” His expression used to make me chuckle every time. :-) )

  29. Syd says

    Our slightly neurotic Border Collie/GSD would always go crazy when someone came to the door, so we eventually put a cue to it. Now anytime anyone says ‘Burglars!’ She jumps up and starts running around the house barking.

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