The photo of Finnegan looking at me was taken while I was walking off leash. One minute the dog was running with the other dogs, the next minute he was glued to my side in a near perfect heel. What I did to get my dog to me at heel was totally unintentional. Can you guess what it may have been?
I will give you a moment to think it over.
Lets go on to Beck for a second. Last weekend Beck met my parents for the first time. They both put him through his paces.
"Sit." Sure no problem.
"Paw". Nope I am saving that for when he is a little older and wiser. Although I have taught him to paw an object like the Easy Button. Give paw can be a really obnoxious default behavior, so I often stay away from it with immature dogs.
"Beck lay down". Nothing. They both then pointed to the ground, then dropped their hand all the way to the ground. I stopped them before they lured him with a cookie.
They both gave me the I thought you were a dog trainer look. Dropping their hand to the ground got Beck's nose on their hand. They told him to hand target!
As a trainer, I should hope I have learned and evolved over time. Beck's down has been shaped. I am thinking ahead to agility and being able to send him to the table and having him do a flying down stay. Beck's cue for down is the cue "down" said while looking at he ground. Parents were duly impressed I think. With my new dog I am trying really hard to stay out of "Lurer's Anonymous." When we teach with lures and don't fade them straight away, it is a hard fix. So much easier to teach it right from the get go. We don't want to inadvertently teach our dogs to be "relurant" That is a sniglet I invented by the way. It means reliant on a lure.
When I taught Finney to lay down, it took me months of frustration. Dog would lay down fine at home and often it took quite a while to get a down in public. I had it all wrong. At home I was saying "Finney, ready Down." In public, it turns out I was skipping the "ready" and he thought it was one big game of Nancy says. No "ready", no down for my Collie. He doesn't like to be wrong, and will choose a default watch me over taking risks. Lesson learned for me.
I catch people in class giving subtle cues all the time without realizing it. Think your dog knows sit? Try asking while sitting down, or turned around, or from across a room using no hand gestures. Think your dog is downing just from your verbal cue?. Try your hands at your side, your eyes straight ahead and no bending at the waist. Can you tell your dog to stay and pick something up off the floor, or will your dog think that is a cue for "come"? I could go on, and I am sure you can think of a few that you have observed in yourself and in others. \
Did you guess why Finney came to heel in the woods? I was cold and I put my hand in my pocket. His heel cue is my left hand in my belly.
cartoon from http://www.cafepress.co.uk/+lured_postcards_package_of_8,22286767