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Training to Trial | A Successful Transition
Week Four | Members Only


Week Four | Powerful Precues

What is a “Precue”?  When we set our dogs up for an exercise, our body often looks the same.  For example, setting up for signals looks exactly the same as setting up for the moving stand.  Often people give a verbal cue to let the dog know which exercise is next.  However, dogs are not verbal.  Physical cues are much more powerful to a dog.  The strongest combination is using verbal AND physical cues that are very clear to the dog.

Why we need a Precue.   Knowing exactly what is coming next instills confidence in our dogs.  They will be alert and prepared for what comes next.

Train the Precues.  I teach a different precue for each exercise.  I use the precue EVERY time I train.  The cue system becomes a habit for the handler, increasing the likelihood that you will give a precue in the ring that looks exactly like training.  For the dog, the cue system becomes intricately linked to the exercise.  Carefully observe your dog and evaluate whether or not they truly understand your precue.

Differentiate between exercises that are similar.  Recently my young dog was at a match and did the glove exercise followed by articles.  When I sent her for the first article, she ran directly to the back of the ring looking for a glove.  Clearly, she didn’t understand the difference between my cue system for gloves and articles!  Zeal’s uncertainty between the two was much more subtle, but there nonetheless.   Make sure your dog knows the difference between all the exercises.  Some common exercises that can cause confusion are high jump/flat retrieve; articles/directed retrieve; moving stand/signals.

Periodically charge the Precues.  Once my dog has a solid understanding of the precues, I make sure to keep them “charged”.  This keeps the cues relevant and rewarding to the dog.

HOMEWORKDo you use Precues?  If so, do you ALWAYS use them in training?  Does your dog clearly understand the difference between your Precues?  Submit a video of several precues for exercises that are similar and could potentially be confusing to the dog.  If you don’t have precues yet, you will now 🙂  Submit a video on the website Forum of several precues and show how they are different and how you are charging them up.

What Is A Precue and Why Is It Important?


Verbal Precues

I always verbalize what the judge says, my response, and my cue when I train and match.  When I’m in the ring it all sounds familiar to my dog.  This is reassuring to the dog and creates confidence.


Physical Precues

The set-up for so many of our exercises look the same to our dogs.  Adding a physical precue to my verbal cue is more meaningful to my dog.


Differentiate Between Similar Exercises

Recently my young dog made the same mistake in training that my OTCH dog did.  I realized that my precues were not clear enough to differentiate between the two exercises.  By practicing the two exercises in succession over time, both of my dogs clearly understood the precues and no longer confused the exercises.


Charge Your Precues and Maintain Them

I periodically charge my precues by pairing them with a high rate of reward.  Otherwise the precues become weak and are not  as effective in the ring.

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