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Cue

 

A cue is a signal or stimulus which, when given to a trained dog, informs the dog of what to do and when to do it.

The word “cue” is often used in preference to “command” because in the reward-based paradigm of dog training, the emphasis is in teaching the dog the meaning of a signal, and motivating the dog to choose to offer the relevant behaviour.  This gets rid of the baggage associated with compulsive training, in which the dog is expected to obey “the boss” or risk being punished.

Think of the conductor of an orchestra giving the soloist a cue to come in, watch my beat, … now. This doesn’t mean “start singing or you’ll be in trouble”. It means “you have already learnt how to do it, you are willing to do it, and the time to do it is … now.” Or think of competitors in a race. Ready, get set … go. This doesn’t mean “I am the boss, so you had better run.” It means “I know you’re all dying to start, but wait until I tell you.”

These are examples of cues. A cue can be deliberate, as in a signal which you have taught your dog, or it can be a signal which your dog has picked up because it occurs regularly in a particular situation. This is called a contextual cue. Dogs often respond to contextual cues without their owners really being aware of it.

See also: putting behaviour on cue.

 

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