This page on Command Training is part of the Advanced Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network

Comprehensive Behavioral Conditioning for Dogs
Section Two of the Advanced Course

Command Training
Page Six of an eleven-page section

Go back to page five of the command training section

Go to the command training index

Avoid Command Redundancies

It should rarely be necessary for you to give the same command a second time, because if your dog does not immediately comply with your first order, then, a split later, you should place your hands on the animal and move him into position.

On occasion, your dog may be unresponsive to a command while he is physically so far away from you that, by the time you close the distance, he may have already focused his attention on other matters. If that happens, then get up close before you repeat the command, and make sure that he complies the second time around.

But remember, with a well trained dog, it should rarely be necessary for you to repeat a command a second time, and a triple redundancy is all but unheard of among self respecting dog handlers.

Therefore, do not let your dog get into a mindset in which he expects you to issue the same command many times over before you finally get around to saying something that you really mean.

If you want a well trained dog, then, you must see to it that every command is always obeyed. Starting with the very first command that you ever give your dog. If you keep that up over time, a sense of inevitability will eventually overtake your dog, and that, combined with the fact that you are going to make compliance so much fun, will produce a well trained animal who wants to do what it is that you want him to do - and does.

A Quick Review of Do This - Not That, Training

Let's take a second for a quick review. In do this - not that, training, you alternate between speaking to your dog in an unsettling voice, which he is sure to find intrinsically aversive, and talking to him in a gladdening voice, which your dog is sure to find pleasing, especially after you have completed a paradigm of classical conditioning in which, over time, you pair that tone of voice with events that he finds innately pleasurable.

In other words, in this - not that, training, as long as your dog is doing the right thing, you talk to him in a voice that makes him feel great. But if your dog switches over from doing the right thing to doing something wrong, then, you should respond by immediately switching over from your gladdening voice to the voice that he hates to hear. As a result your dog will soon come to understand that, if he wants to hear the voice he loves and steer clear of the one he hates, then, he needs to do this - and not that.

Through the systematic employment of that methodology, your dog will soon develop a sense of what is and is not acceptable, as well as a strong preference for doing that which you have taught him to be right.

Integrating Sandwich Cues into a This - Not That Procedure

After you have given your dog the command to Stay, and he has complied for some length of time, there will come a point where he will begin to wonder how much longer you intend to keep him in that position. In the worst case scenario, he may even wonder if you have forgotten him as he waits, perhaps not so patiently, for the release. That's where sandwich cues come in handy.

The phrase Good Dog has a number of meanings, including the following three:

You can see then that, when you need to reassure your dog, Good Dog is just exactly the right phrase to use as a sandwich cue.

As you set out to employ Good Dog as a cue, either your dog will already know what it means, or he won't. If he already understands what the words mean at the outset, then, your saying them to him will help him to learn his Stay command. And if he does not know what they mean, then, your saying the words to him in that particular context will help bring him to an understanding of the phrase. Either way, you can only come out ahead by introducing the words at that point.

In the earliest stage of obedience training, when you are first teaching your dog the Sit and Down commands, you will need to move him into position with your hands and hold him there until you issue the release.

As you are holding your dog in position in those first days, as long as he complies with your command and your subsequent effort to hold him in place, you should repeat the words Stay and Good Dog dog continuously, in your warmest, most reassuring gladdening voice. So that at any given instant you will be speaking one word or the other.

However, if your dog moves out of position, or if he attempts to do so, you should immediately switch over to speaking the word no in an abrasive unsettling tone. Then, the instant that your dog complies or stops resisting, you should immediately switch back and again begin calling him a good dog as you praise him in a gladdening tone that will serve to reassure him that he is doing it the way you want.

You should by now recognize the protocol outlined in the previous paragraph as being a do this - not that, procedure.

Fading Out Your Sandwich Cues

Of course, the problem with the plan as I have outlined it up to this point is that having a dog that will obey your order to Stay is not going to do you a heck of a lot of good if you have to stand right there and talk to the animal continuously in order to get him to remain in place.

For that reason, just as you gradually withdrew your tactile cues and slowly inched further and further from your dog over time, you will need to slowly fade out your sandwich cues in that same stealthy manner.

Therefore, in the very beginning you will need to speak the words to your dog nonstop as he holds your command to Stay, or as he holds a Sit or a Down command. However, further along in his training, you will eventually want to get to the point where your dog will always hold his commands for as long as it takes, even if he receives no sandwich reassurance whatsoever. Once again, your task is to get from here to there.

Over much time and a great many repetitions, then, you will need to slowly fade out your sandwich cues until you reach the point where your dog can be relied upon to hold his commands for an adequate length of time without any extra reassurance whatsoever.

As before, if you reach a point in the fading process in which your dog begins to backslide, you should revert back to issuing your verbal cues more frequently, and then, resume the fading process after your dog has fallen back into a pattern of near perfect compliance.

As always, when your dog fails to comply, you should punish him with the word no, spoken in your unsettling voice, and then, immediately switch over to a gladdening tone the instant that he falls back into compliance.

Extending the Duration of Your Stay Command

Sooner or later, you will reach the point where your dog can be relied upon to sit or lie down when you command him to do so.

Of course, when your dog first starts to sit or lie down on command, you will not be able to rely on him to remain in the correct posture for more than a few seconds, unless you take the measures outlined previously to keep him in that position.

Nevertheless, even though you must still take steps to keep your dog in position, the fact remains that, from the point where he can first be relied upon to respond to your commands, even if he only holds the command for a very few seconds, from there you need only to take the measures necessary to ensure that your dog will develop a greater tolerance for waiting.

Making him wait longer and longer over a period of at least several months is the key to teaching your dog patience.

It is true that you will want to stretch out your dog's wait time over the course of many months of training. Nonetheless, your goal should be to extend that wait so gradually that your dog will not even realize that his wait periods are slowly lengthening.

If you reach a point in the process in which your dog begins to impatiently break the command before you issue the release, you should shorten the amount of time you require him to wait, and resume the lengthening process only after he can be relied upon to hold the command for shorter periods of time.

Go forward to page seven of the command training section

Go to the command training index

This page on Command Training is part of the Advanced Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network