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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 18 month old Toller. She knows about a dozen tricks by hand gesture, but doesn't seem able to learn them by voice command.

She does her puppy obedience commands by voice well enough (she comes when i say "come"...), but when I tell her to "spin", she looks bewildered and then does tricks she knows at random; apparently hoping one of the is "spin". When I move my finger in a circle she immediately spins.

Many of them she has known for year, but just doesn't seem to connect verbal commands to the behaviors. How do I improve this?
 

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Why does it matter? Personally, when it comes to tricks, I much prefer that the dog responds to hand or body cues. Over time, I whittle most of them down so they're essentially imperceptible to observers. That way, people are even more amazed. ie: "wow! how are you even cuing the dog to ____?"

If you want to include verbal cues in the repertoire, that's up to you. Just start adding each verbal slightly before the respective signal while practicing, the dog will eventually begin to anticipate the forthcoming signal. Then simply drop the signal.
 

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I have this problem too but I'm hoping to get into some dog sports so it seems a problem for that reason.
 

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If it hasn't helped in a year, then you are doing it wrong. Maybe if you post a video of what you're doing, we can help. Timing is everything.
 

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I have this problem too but I'm hoping to get into some dog sports so it seems a problem for that reason.
Nah. Especially something like agility. You need some verbals but fewer than you'd think. I use basically 3: Here (come closer/take the closer obstacle) Out: (Move out or take the obstacle further away from me), and mark (contact behavior). Otherwise it's pretty much 'do the thing you're pointed at.

You'd need more for obedience, maybe, but only in a 'general cues' kind of way. Given the number of deaf dogs competing - and frankly I own one of them - voice commands matter very, very little for effectiveness. It's ust more natural for us.
 

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If it hasn't helped in a year, then you are doing it wrong. Maybe if you post a video of what you're doing, we can help. Timing is everything.
Also this.

Seriously. A YEAR? There's something wrong somewhere. Timing, consistency, or dog's deaf or something.
 

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Most people don't understand while HUMANS are verbal, Dogs are not. ALL the dogs I have ever trained have learned first with no words.. they respond to body language much better because that is how they respond and cue each other.

In my sport you cannot use body language to help the dog. It is called "handler help" and you get major points deductions. Only in the blind search and in the go out can you use body language. At national events I have seen a judge take off points for arm movements, bending at the waist (as in a recall) and for a multitude of other moves we don't even see ourselves doing.

Soo.. I start my dogs with luring (lots of body language there!) and then move to a clicker/YES! marker and getting the dog to offer the behavior (and retaining the body language). When the dog starts to offer the behavior reliably (no words yet!) I add words and fade the body language. Eventually we move entirely to a verbal and clicker/YES! marker.

I am not sure where you are missing the link, but that is what I do. Clearly your dog is responding to your body language. Perhaps, when the dog offers the correct behavior for the verbal you are slow to mark it and reward it? Timing is everything...
 

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I have to agree with others, that you're doing something wrong, because barring hearing impediments, your dog should have learned the verbal after a year. I also think a video would help pinpoint what is going wrong. It would be difficult to tell you exactly where the error is occurring without seeing it.
 

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The year thing is also something I want to address. Because if you are training efficiently, you should see change in one or two sessions. I'm not saying things will be perfect in that time. But I think one way to measure success in training is seeing change in behavior. And you can often see that in one session. If you are not seeing any change, it's time to change YOUR behavior.

Here's an example from my training, and I'm working on teaching him "limp" (carrying one paw in the air while moving forward).
-I started with paw targeting (touch paw to my hand). Easy and successful. I was able to get that with complete consistency.
-I wanted duration. Keep the paw in my hand. Success.
-I wanted to duration plus forward movement. Paw in hand, lure forward with a treat. Success.
-I wanted to fade my hand. I tried having my hand just a little far forward so that he would come forward/paw target, miss my hand and do one little limp/hop. I did have some success with this. However, he mostly just waved his paw in the air. After about five 3 minute training sessions over the course of two weeks, I did not see an increase in 'limping'. We were stagnant. Time to change my plan.
-I went back to general paw targeting. This time, I held my hand higher so that he would have to hop up to touch it. No more luring. I had success with this in the first session I tried it.
-Session two with the new method, very consistent limping, and I was able to fade my hand. Now I have a clear path moving forward.

Honestly, if I was a better trainer I would have changed my technique sooner. But here are some big takeaways:
-The original method I tried worked with my older dog, who is a pro at this trick. What works for one dog might not work for another.
-Behavior should change in a couple of training sessions. Training is about noting these small changes towards your goal.
-Training sessions should be short and fun.
 

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But without seeing what you're doing, I can only guess that it's one of these:
-You are not waiting long enough after presenting one cue
-You are doing too much with your body or voice
-You are presenting multiple cues at once
-You are unintentionally luring
-You are not aware of your subtle body language (ex. leaning, eyebrow movement, etc.)


Impossible to say without seeing, which is why I recommend video. This topic is something I talk about in the beginning of my entry level training class. Usually owners see progress within 5 minutes. But I go around and each person gets different advice, because each dog is reading something different from their owner.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
If you want to include verbal cues in the repertoire, that's up to you. Just start adding each verbal slightly before the respective signal while practicing, the dog will eventually begin to anticipate the forthcoming signal. Then simply drop the signal.
I think that is it. I have been doing the verbal and signal at the same time, assuming she would associate them. But I now suspect that since she had the signal, the verbal was superfluous and she just ignored it. I will work on my timing.
 

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I think that is it. I have been doing the verbal and signal at the same time, assuming she would associate them. But I now suspect that since she had the signal, the verbal was superfluous and she just ignored it. I will work on my timing.
You've got it, I think. If you give the verbal and hand signal simultaneously, a lot of dogs will either learn that the combination is the cue, or that the hand signal is the primary and most important part of the cue (and maybe ignore the verbal entirely), because dogs are hardwired to pay significantly more attention to body language than verbal communication. It can take some pretty conscious effort to get the timing down, but definitely try breaking it down into verbal>hand signal>marker>reward, completing each step before starting the next. I know I've accidentally worked in treats to some of my cues by reaching for the reward as I was cuing, and had to go back and be more conscious of my timing to break that association.

Some dogs are more forgiving and pick up on what you want even if your timing's mushy, but even they tend to respond better to good timing because it makes communication as clear as possible.
 

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Mine learn by hand signal first, it's easier for them to learn. Then I switch to voice commands. Give the voice command, then follow immediately with the hand signal for three sessions. then, delay the hand signal two seconds for three sessions, then 4 seconds, then, only as a reminder if the dog looks puzzled. Inside a month, no need for hand signals, the word is enough. Be careful to use the same tone of voice at first, then begin changing it up after the dog responds to voice alone, finally have others command the dog but, be there to show the hand signal until the dog learns the word in any tone and given by male, female, adult and, child. Takes me about six months to get a dog responding to six voice commands by anyone in my home.
 
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