If you want your dog to perform the first time you ask for a behavior, then don’t repeat your cues.

Let’s say you ask for a sit and your dog doesn’t respond immediately. You wait a couple seconds and ask for a sit again, and this time your pup obliges, so you reward him. What you’re actually reinforcing is waiting for two cues before responding.

When your dog doesn’t respond to your first cue, you’ll want to do one of the following things:

Work on the Behavior Itself

It’s possible your dog hasn't learned to connect the cue you gave him to the behavior you want. In dog training, you typically want to make sure your dog understands the behavior 100% before putting it on cue. So in this scenario, you’ll want to go back to making sure the behavior is solid before working on the cue.

Break Up the Sequence

If you’re certain your dog knows the cue and simply chose not to respond, don’t ask for it again. Instead, you can help him to do what you ask, like lightly guiding him into a sit position. In this scenario, you wouldn’t give a reward. You can also simply move him to another position and try the cue again. The new position creates new context and decreases the risk of reinforcing waiting for two cues.

End the Session

Similarly, you can simply end the session. Ending a session is a form of negative reinforcement. Since training sessions are opportunities to earn treats—positive thing—ending the session takes away that opportunity which is a negative thing. Keep that in mind if you ever need to end a session abruptly. Your dog may view ending a session as a form of punishment.

Take your relationship with your dog to the next level

Give Harper a try. No obligations. No gimmicks. No cat people.

Start your free trial