A cue is a word my mom tells me when she wants me to perform something. Like a task, trick, or position change.
Some cues have context associated with them, which helps me know what to do. “Tug” is an example of this type of cue.
If my mom were to sit in the middle of the kitchen floor and give me the cue “tug” I wouldn’t know what she needed me to open. Why would that be?
Because there are ten tug ropes in the kitchen! She might want me to open a cupboard door or a drawer. Or maybe the refrigerator.
Half of the tug ropes in the kitchen are in one area!
So for cues like this, my mom needs to have her chair in a position that gives me more information. It needs to be beside and facing toward the one she wants me to tug open.
Although there is one set of tug ropes where I need an extra verbal cue. This is where there are two drawers, each with a tug attached, that are in the same area.
One is on top and the other on the bottom. If my mom were to say “tug” I would need to guess which one she wanted me to open. So she taught me “top” to open the upper drawer. And “bottom” for the lower one.
Since I am so smart I’ve also learned what types of things go in each of these drawers. And most often I know which drawer to open just by looking at the item!
But many of my cues don’t have any specific context associated with them. So for these, I need to listen carefully to each word as my mom says it to me. And have good verbal discrimination.
If my mom says “help” and I “sit” instead of going to push the help button, I’m not being very helpful. Nor doing my job properly. She could be in distress and need my dad’s help. And I didn’t summon him in time.
A few of my cues!
So how do I stay sharp with my cue discrimination? And always knowing just what my mom needs? I’m sure you guessed it! We do lots of practicing. And when needed, some refresher training.
My mom has fun training games that we play. One is where she will quickly say a variety of cues, one after another. This means that I have to listen carefully. And be ready to change positions or do tasks. Because when she mixes them up, I don’t know what is coming next.
Another fun game is when my mom will be in a position that has a contextual cue. But instead of the verbal cue that goes with the context, she gives me a different verbal cue.
She also sets up situations where there are two or three options for what I could do. Like going under a bench, putting my paws on the edge of the bench, or jumping up on the bench.
Each has its specific cue but all three are using the bench as context. I need to listen carefully so I know which one my mom is asking me to perform.
Do you know what? Sometimes I make mistakes! But my mom doesn’t get upset. Instead, she uses it as information for what I might need to practice more.
My mom even thinks about the ways she may have been the one who wasn’t clear with saying the cue. Or if she gave a mixed message with the verbal cue. Like a mismatched hand gesture or an unclear context.
Between service dog tasks, tricks, obedience and rally, and general manners, I easily know over a hundred cues. My training, and the practice I do, keep my skills sharp. And my cue discrimination is top-notch!
As I’ve said before, my mom and I make a great team. We learn from each other and support each other. But most of all, we are always working towards becoming better listeners of each other’s needs and strengthening our relationship. We are dancing as one!
A very timely post for Team Folger! Folger is much better at contextual and motion cues than verbal. Since in a given situation she is responding, it is all too easy to think she is responding to the verbal when in fact she is not. I have begun to separate out the verbals and to practice them in random order. You have a couple other good ideas here to add to the mix. Thanks for the timely post!!
Sally, I am so glad you found this post timely. And helpful for you and Folger. Buffy was much better at responding to the contexual and motion cues and weaker with the verbal. Looking back I created those as stronger responses without realizing it at the time. I have tried to be more concious of this with Clint. In some ways it has been easier because of my decline in strength and range of motion. It is easier to be still… most times! I have also worked from early on in our partnership to be better with my marker cues and the timing of reaching for the treat to reward. Always learning! Each dog is so different and teaches us so much…
Hugs and wags,
Brenda, Clint, and Buffy ❤️ 🐾 🐾