Add or Change a Dog Training Cue

​Did you ever want to change a cue or teach your dog a new cue for an old behavior? It is actually very easy to do this with just a little planning.

Why would you want to teach your dog a new cue for a behavior that he already knows? One common example is when someone wants to teach their dog another cue for Come When Called. My dogs know many different cues for this behavior including the verbal "Come" as well as a whistle, and various visual cues including waving my hand in the air if they are far away. I use a different cue depending on how far away they are and whether they can hear me or not.

To change or add a cue you need the following:

  1. A new cue that you want to teach
  2. A cue that your dog already knows

Let's assume you want to teach your dog to "come" when you whistle. To accomplish this do the following:

  1. Have your dog sit and stay
  2. Walk 5-10 feet away from your dog
  3. Whistle
  4. Pause for a moment (if your dog isn't already coming to you)
  5. Ask for your dog to "Come" or another cue using a cue that he already knows
  6. If he doesn't come right away, help him gently by guiding him with a leash or tapping your leg
  7. Repeat this exercise until he doesn't need the secondary "Come" cue and has learned that the whistle means the same as "Come"

Helpful Tips

  • It is important to give the new cue first and make sure you pause before providing the cue that your dog already knows. If you give the new cue and the old cue at the same time, this is called "blocking." If blocking occurs your dog might not learn the new cue because he has all the information he needs from the old cue. The new cue can become "background noise".
  • If you pause between giving the new cue and the old cue your dog will learn the cue eventually because he will anticipate that the new cue is always followed by the cue that he knows

Have fun changing or adding cues. Here are some fun things to try.

  • Scratch your head to teach your dog to sit
  • When you sit on the couch, teach your dog that this means he should lie down on his bed
  • When you open the front door, teach your dog to sit