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I've always been what I'd describe as an "organic" trainer. I focus more on relationship building than drilling commands, and through day-to-day interactions, I slowly capture the behaviours that I like.

Peggy, bless her heart, needs more than that. She deserves more than that. She is just so darn smart. So I've been trying to step it up, but I struggle notably in one area:

How do you keep all your hand signals and verbal commands straight?? Do you keep a list? Do you ever need to go back and change one you've already taught?

For example, I've somehow paired the word "Up" with both jumping on an object AND putting just two front paws on an object. And I'll admit that I use a pointing finger for almost everything.

Until now, she's figured out what I wanted because the object often dictates the behaviour (e.g. if something's too small or tall for her to stand on, she knows two feet are fine). But today I tried demonstrating for my husband how she could put two paws up on the back of the couch:

Point.

"Up!"

And up she went—up and over the back and onto the couch. She looked so proud of herself and my husband was like, "Whyyyy would you teach her to do something like that??"

Oops.

So please tell me: Do you decide what you want to teach and figure out the signal and verbal command beforehand? What's your process? Because I need to stop confusing this poor dog (and my husband), and I genuinely do not understand how people do it.
 

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I am, frankly, not good at teaching specific skills on cue - I eventually learned to use different words for Down meaning Off, and Down meaning Flat, but for the most part my dogs have learned to read the small tells in my body language to work out what I really mean. Poppy made me look like an excellent trainer, because she was so willing to please (I can jump over that! Twice! Would you like me to do it backwards? Wheeeee!). Sophy would cut me just so much slack, then do the canine equivalent of a teenager raising eyes to heaven, plonk her bottom on the ground and stare at me. I have not forgotten trying to usher her through the weaving poles at an agility class and the look I got for confusing her completely. But they do have good manners because that was important to me, more so than whether they sat, stood or lay down on cue.
 

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Oh goodness yes. Down. Another one I've confused her with. Lol.

"Do you want me to lie down on this bed or get down off this bed? Better yet, just give me that cookie while you figure it out. Bark! Bark!"

I actually love that our dogs are so adept at reading our body language. I'd almost just be fine with that. But more structured training sessions are such a good workout for Peggy's brain (and so easy in the grand scheme of things). I'm committed to getting better.

(Cover their eyes while you type your answer, lest you offend one, but would you say that poodle and papillon intelligence is similar? And are your girls equally sensitive to your more subtle physical signals?)
 

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I have always been more like a drill sergeant. Your the dog I am your person and you will do what I say when I say. Period end of story. Sit meant sit, down meant to lie down, Off means get off me or whatever you happen to be on. I have incorporated some hand signals though not many as I trained. One finger pointed straight up meant sit, flat hand meant down, cupped hands meant give it to me. Hand wave toward me meant come.Thats pretty much it. I trained GSD's, Rottweilers with this approach and for the most part had well trained dogs all my life. Until I got a standard poodle...different ball game entirely. I now incorporate more positive re enforcement methods into his training and he is far more receptive to it. However he is not allowed to act crazy and this boy has in the past, still will on occasion. So I do use a pinch collar when walking, I think he pinched himself maybe 3x before he learned to loose leash walk with me. I did not need to make any correction he was smart enough to figure it out on his on. I fell once prior to using it while walking with him and had a sore shoulder for 6 months, won't happen 2x. He is reactive to others when on leash for that I am clicking and treating when he re focuses on me. We are just in the beginning stages so have a way to go mostly because I'm not out with him enough, but its already hot and neither of us can stand it. He does not counter surf, early on I used a bonker, nothing more than a small bath towel, tri-folded and rolled, secured with a rubber band on each end. I threw it at him, he stopped, ended behavior before it became a problem. He also like to jump up on me as a youngster, either knee up, which really didn't work for him, so I taught him to sit then allowed a hug which is when I cross my arms over my chest. He also loves to play fetch and can jump probably 5 feet into the air to catch the ball on a fly. He learned his recall playing ball and will come most every time and he will place the ball in my hands, or toss it at me. He is no expert or a dog that can compete but he is my boy and I am pretty happy with him , well most times...he does not like to leave my side to go to anyone. I can say go say hello to dad or whoever in the house and he will run over to them sit for some loving then immediately run back to me.
 

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I am a gesture trainer.... i am terrible at teaching verbal cues. My previous collie cross refused to listen to verbal commands, and I wonder if I have trained Annie to do the same. "Annie sit!" 50% chance of success depending on context, often she just looks at me like, 'hey stupid, do you really mean it? 'Cause you dont look like you mean it'. "Annie (holds hand up in a fist)" 95% chance or more of success. Sometimes I will do both simultaneously, but seriously, gestures work better for most things. I often have multiple gestures for the same command, like stomping my foot to mean return and sit at my side, and twirling my finger there meaning the same (useful if I dont have hands free). Plus, it looks super impressive when your dog does something that looks somewhat complicated (like return to side, down, and stay) with a few flicks of your hand and no words.

Most of my gestures come from former lures. I taught side with a treat in my hand, leading her nose, so my gesture is a very discreet version of that. I taught cross cross with paw targets for my hands, so my gesture, (holding out a hand) is a faded version. Down is pointing down for similar reasons. Sit at my side is a heel stomp because when I taught heel, I exaggerated when I stopped

I do drill and practice, and also train a lot with life rewards (crossing the street, dinner, getting out of the door getting a leash on, etc are all super rewarding).

I also like "fun". Right now we are working on Annie standing on my back while I crouch... Why? No reason, just fun. It's great to watch her clever brain.
 

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On poodle v papillon based on my massive sample of one of each, I would say Poppy applies her intelligence to getting a treat or other reward from me, while Sophy applies hers to working out how to get it for herself. There is a lot of overlap, of course - sometimes asking me nicely or doing what I ask is the easiest way - but if it came to the Timmy-down-the-well moment Poppy would be having hysterics and trying to jump n after me while Sophy might, just possibly, think the problem through as far as going for help.
 

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I have always been a 'gesture' trainer (I'm also the kind of person who uses my hands when I talk on the phone...). Almost all my hand signals are related to a lure movement. I would say that manners- type stuff happens organically here, and is more likely to have a vague signal or none at all. But Raffi loooves formal training sessions, so for that I tend to first decide on what the behaviour is going to be, and it's name and signal, so that I don't use something too close to what I already do.
I have, once or twice, had to adjust my signal when it didn't 'feel' right- it has to be fairly natural or I will have a brain freeze when trying to use it, lol. It was not a big deal to change, especially because it's not very solid at the point I was changing it anyway.
 

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Personally, I try to teach both the verbal and the gesture hand in hand. I use gestures as my failsafe, because I’ve forgotten and stumbled over words in the heat of the moment before, but I can always remember a particular movement. They’ve tended to evolve from the process of teaching the commands themselves, so some of them are a bit similar. If a word has already been ‘taken’ by another command, then I use a different command in that moment that I’m teaching it (for example, ‘off’ instead of ‘down’ when we want the dog off the couch).

I, too, am guilty of the pointing finger 😅. For example, a point directly to the ground means come here, but an angled point towards the dog means down. A spinning point means turn around, and if I motion for them to back up, that means sit.

With Misty, I had to drill it into her little terrier head that certain things were always to be done, and in doing so, I had to be very, very firm about it. She has a ‘you can’t boss me around’ attitude about most things, so that was really essential in getting her trained. Fluffy, on the other hand, wilts under any kind of pressure, so a lot of his sessions are kind of loose and non-structured. He really needs a lot of guidance learning things, though, as he gets super depressed if he can’t figure it out on his own.
 

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I do gestures and words, but I try to keep things to mainly words because it's easier for another person to replicate my words than my gestures. I also like to teach patterns of behavior where Misha knows what I want before I even ask it. These patterns of behavior help him to have general good manners and he takes pride in knowing what to do without being asked. If we're walking on a trail and he sees a nice stump he'll often jump up on it and sit down by himself waiting for a treat. If I sit down somewhere I want his automatic response to be to sit or settle.
 

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I always use clicker training. I lure the dog into position (click) then say the command, then treat. Once they start to get the command without being lured I incorporate a gesture, which is always similar to the position my hand was in when luring.
 

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I also like to teach patterns of behavior where Misha knows what I want before I even ask it. These patterns of behavior help him to have general good manners and he takes pride in knowing what to do without being asked. If we're walking on a trail and he sees a nice stump he'll often jump up on it and sit down by himself waiting for a treat. If I sit down somewhere I want his automatic response to be to sit or settle.
I like this practical approach. And I love picturing Misha sitting on his stump.
 

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I combine hand gestures and words. I find that depending on the behavior and context one is sometimes more reliable than the other. For example, Snoop still needs to be told “down” to lie down unless I’m luring her with a treat. However, the gesture for sit is usually enough, especially in a loud environment.

I think that making a list of your dog’s vocabulary is useful.. Zak George even has flash cards, which is a bit too much for me, but to each their own..

I’ve also had to change some words after realizing that my commands were confusing to Groot. I was using “inside” to mean inside the house and car, and one day both doors were open and I wanted him to go inside the car but he ran to the house. After a couple weeks of switching up the words he caught on..
 

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I always use clicker training. I lure the dog into position (click) then say the command, then treat. Once they start to get the command without being lured I incorporate a gesture, which is always similar to the position my hand was in when luring.
Clicker training makes me feel like I speak Poodle! It's so powerful.
 

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I trained GSD's, Rottweilers with this approach and for the most part had well trained dogs all my life. Until I got a standard poodle...different ball game entirely. I now incorporate more positive re enforcement methods into his training and he is far more receptive to it.
I think it's so great that you were able to adapt like that. I have to remind people sometimes that Peggy is a poodle and needs to be handled accordingly. Kinda weird comparing her to an inanimate object, but you wouldn't drive a sports car like you'd drive a mini van. And if you tried, it probably wouldn't go well!
 

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I use hand signals, verbal commands, and a clicker for Sisko. I try to figure out what I want from him and what to call it first before trying to do it, but I mess up on this sometimes. Sisko must be so confused with me sometimes😖
 

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I use hand signals, verbal commands, and a clicker for Sisko. I try to figure out what I want from him and what to call it first before trying to do it, but I mess up on this sometimes. Sisko must be so confused with me sometimes😖
Our poor confused dogs. I really screwed up this evening. I was luring Peggy into a new position, kneeling down with my arm extended. Well, a while back I taught her to jump my arm with the "over" command. She was so revved up and eager to please tonight, she saw my arm out and just launched herself over it, on an angle towards me. I flung my other arm in front of my face to protect it (still sore from my wisdom tooth extraction) and I accidentally hit her right in the face.

Waaaahhhhhhhh.

She yelped loudly and started racing tight circles around me. I know she was in over-aroused puppy mode and probably wanted to bite me. She was using all her self control. I felt so bad.

The confusion continues....

I sure hope I get better at this.
 

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I combine hand gestures and words. I find that depending on the behavior and context one is sometimes more reliable than the other. For example, Snoop still needs to be told “down” to lie down unless I’m luring her with a treat. However, the gesture for sit is usually enough, especially in a loud environment.

I think that making a list of your dog’s vocabulary is useful.. Zak George even has flash cards, which is a bit too much for me, but to each their own..

I’ve also had to change some words after realizing that my commands were confusing to Groot. I was using “inside” to mean inside the house and car, and one day both doors were open and I wanted him to go inside the car but he ran to the house. After a couple weeks of switching up the words he caught on..
I've still not figured out a good hand gesture for lie down. I'm not sure why, but it seems to confuse her more than most commands, so I stick to the verbal.

It's so cute picturing Groot running into the house. Lol. That's the exact sort of scenario that's led me to over-use the pointing finger.

Edit: Oh! And I'm totally going to make some flash cards. It's super dorky, which I love. Plus, I sometimes see my husband practising commands he's seen me doing with Peggy, and I want to make sure we're on the same page.
 
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