Why I Don’t Use “Commands” In Dog Training

Photo by Patrick Danforth | www.clicktozen.com

Photo by Patrick Danforth | www.clicktozen.com

I often find that people think using the word "cue" instead of "command" in dog training is just a semantic difference that doesn't have any implication on the training process. I disagree.

As modern behavioral and cognitive science teaches us more about the complexity of dogs' minds and the way that they think, learn, and explore the world around them, it's becoming increasingly clear that the old-school methods that encourage you to "command your dog to obey" are outdated and downright inhumane. Dogs are eager to learn and are constantly studying our physical and vocal language, and with patience, consistency, and the right motivators for each individual dog, teaching them what is wanted of them and what isn't is only limited by the handler's ability, not the dog's.

To me, the word "command" implies a "master/servant relationship" between man and dog, which is still an all too common foundation of dog training that ultimately undermines the incredible progress we have made in understanding our dogs' minds. The word "cue" implies a much healthier relationship in which we are truly teaching our dogs what we want from them.

Now keep in mind that I'm not implying that just because someone uses the word "command" and not "cue" when teaching a dog means that they don't use humane training methods. Many great trainers do still stick to the word "command" when it comes to teaching dogs how to sit, lay down, etc. But I do hope that we can all become more mindful of how the words we use have an effect on how we and others work with dogs.

So yes, words are just words, but when they're backed by a clear understanding of dog behavior and a commitment to building a bond through mutual trust and respect, words have the power to revolutionize the dog training industry.

tweet it post it Share It Plus It Print It

Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


6 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Use “Commands” In Dog Training

  1. K9mutt Training

    Love this. I do not use "Command" either but tell my clients-- the word you want to use is .... and I make sure they are comfortable with the word. I remind then these guys don't come with a dictionary of word you must use but it is important that each word be for one specific action. Thanks again!

  2. Cathy Hawkes

    your dog is your mirror. my dog is very clever, and tone of voice does work. sometimes. don't really believe in 'commands'. and why would you want to aggress your dog by telling it what to do

  3. TenFeet2Hands

    I believe in conversations, not complex sentences at first, just simple sentences: shall we go out? and Time to eat! Turn here! This works well for the first 3>5 months in puppyhood then more complex sentences are integrated. My hounds astonish the neighborhood pet owners, as I never shout single words at them. After all they are 'family'! Even my wait, has more than one word: wait here, or wait for me, stay with me, stay here etc... My favorite cue is give space, as I have a pair of Hounds and they must respect my space and the space of each other. Cues are interesting to the Hound and the human, can you think of a better friend to hold a conversation with than your dogs? NO you cannot! They do not debate or contradict, most importantly, they do not repeat!

  4. sharina

    I give my dog directions, words that I train him to associate with an action he then performs. I don't think it matters what you call your cues, signals, words, etc., to elicit desired behavior, but command does sound harsh, like harsh training methods. While we are trying to get away from those, changing the term command to something more friendly is a good idea.

  5. richard schuler

    Using the word cue, puts the handle in a different state of mind when trying to teach how to handle their dog. Seeing as dogs are just little actors we have to give clear cues to have command performance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Episode 830 - Rescue and Pitbull Type Dogs

Do people respond differently to Pitbull type dogs? Holly and Victoria are joined by Heather Paul to start off this new year of...

Episode 829 - Advocating for Animals with Peter Egan

Advocating for Animals – Victoria and Holly are joined by actor and animal activist, Peter Egan to discuss dogs, moon bears and...

Episode 828 - A Fresh Take on the Debate About Shock Collars

Victoria is joined by dog behaviour expert and a driving force behind the UK Dog Behaviour & Training Charter Andrew Hale to...

find a vspdt trainer
Schedule a consultation via skype or phone