Just a short explanation of the "Poisoned Cue".

I often see dogs that are ready for training and as soon as their handler ask them to give a certain behaviour that they have worked hard on the dog is just not responding in the way they expected. Instead the dog looks away, sniffs and or lifts his paw etc. These are all signals that our dogs portray with their bodies.

So what is a cue? A cue is a green light that tells the dog that you are asking a certain behaviour. This can be visual or verbal. Cues can either be trained through shaping a natural behaviour or by association of something. For example: When we teach a dog to lie down we can wait until he lies down as it is likely to occur naturally and then click and treat the moment it happens until we are able to put it on cue. Or by association your dog has learned when you take out your running shoes he is going for his morning run with you even before you get to his lead or call him he is ready to go.

So what happens to a cue that it gets poisoned? It is when something negative is associated with the same behaviour. Mixing negative experiences and positive reinforcement with each other. This is not always reprimanding or yanking on a lead but can even be when the reinforcement that you use is not positive to the dog even though you might think it is. For example; when your dog gives you the desired behaviour you lean down and pull your dog close to you smothering him in your arms. Dogs don't hug each other it is not a natural behaviour to them. So yes for some dogs this might be affective or even that he tolerates it to please you but for another dog he would rather not give the desired behaviour because after that follows that hugging thing he hates. This is just an example there are many more like these and for each dog it might be different from a slight pull on a collar, a pat on the head etc.

Think of how you would feel if somebody did the same thing to you. You might feel uncomfortable if you did something good and your teacher or boss came and thanked you in the same manner?

So often we think that dogs are being difficult and very often it happens with recall training. Your dog has learned to do a great recall but then we poison the cue by always calling them to go back home from the dog park, or coming to us when we want to put tick and flea prevention on etc.

The poisoned cue can occur often with simple things like using your dogs name to reprimand and then wanting to use the same name when you call your dog to you.

Fix the Poisoned Cue by reteaching the behaviour and putting it on a new cue. Your dog already knows the behaviour so you should get to the point of putting it on cue rather quickly. Start doing this by observing your dog doing the behaviour naturally and then reinforce that.

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