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Playing with Head Down and Cue Transfer: Part 1

Now that you have head down using a lift of the lead rope, make sure it is solid…that you get head down promptly every time you lift the lead. Now we can have some fun and play with cue transfer.

Many people ask how to put a behaviour on cue. Remember that you shouldn’t put a cue onto a behaviour until you can reliably predict that the behaviour WILL happen.

So, if you wanted to put a verbal cue onto head down you would give the verbal ‘down’ or whatever distinct word you want for this behaviour a split second before asking for it with your lead. Soon you can fade the lift of the lead and have a verbal cue for the same behaviour; this is what is called cue transfer. Let’s look at some fun cue transfers in head down that will result in a really cool behaviour that I have found to be very helpful.

At a recent clinic with Alexandra Kurland, we played with the neat process of cue transfer. The more ways you can ask for a behaviour, the more likely you are to get it in any situation. After the clinic I decided to play with cue transfer with Oli and Sarah. We would play with transferring his very solid head down cue (from upward pressure on the rope ) to having another cue for head down being the sound of the clippers.

We played a bit with some easy cue transfer and head down to get him thinking about the hot behaviour.

The methodology for transfer of a cue is as follows – new cue – old cue – click – treat. Eventually, the old cue is faded out (usually in only a few tries) and now the new cue will produce the same behaviour just like the old cue so now you have two cues for the same behaviour. You can do this with as many cues as you would like.

We chose to have as head down cues the original lift of the lead, a hand held up over his head and finally the sound of the clippers.

To make sure he was solid with the cue, Sarah lifted the lead rope and clicked and treated when his head dropped.

If we could not have been sure he would drop it with the lead rope then we would need to train that more before attempting a cue transfer.

Next we presented the new cue for head down which was Sarah’s hand above his head and then the old cue of the lift of the lead, clicking and treating when his head dropped. Within a few repetitions his head was dropping when the hand was raised so we no longer needed to present the ‘old’ cue, we could confidently ask with just the new cue.

Now that we have the new cue solid and reliable we could once again transfer the same behaviour to yet another cue. In this particular situation I chose to use another cue for head down first before transferring it to the sound of the clippers. In part the raising of my hand when they held the clippers would help to remind Oli that he had two cues asking for head down and would make it easier for him to be successful.

So now Sarah presented the new cue of the sound of the clippers followed by the now old cue of her hand raised by his head.

I’ll let you play with this new cue until next week. Until then keep it positive!

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