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How to Introduce a Verbal Cue to a Behavior

Create the behavior (luring, shaping, capturing, etc.).


Luring is when you take a piece of food and you place it on your dog’s mouth and let them nibble at it as you move them so that they perform the behavior whilst following the food.

When using luring you can introduce your verbal from the start. Say it as you lure your dog into position.

If you have lured, you’ll want to fade out the food and the signal by having your dog follow your hand without food in it, then make the movement your hand is making more and more subtle.

Test it by saying your Verbal, wait 1-2 seconds to see if your dog offers the behavior, if not guide them with your hand lure. Keep repeating till your dog does it reliable without any additional lure.


Shaping is when you break the behavior down and reward your dog for any effort that looks like it could be part of the behavior. For example, if you want a sit, you could first reward a slight weight shift back on the rear end.

When using shaping we introduce our Verbal last. Once we have the finished Behavior.

When you are positive your dog is going to do the behavior you can add the verbal!


Capturing is when your dog naturally offers the behavior and you reward them when they offer it. An example of capturing would be if your dog stretches every time they exit their crate. You can reward them every time and pretty soon they’ll stretch more often in order to get a reward!

When you are positive your dog is going to do the behavior, you can add the verbal!

Adding Verbal Cue

Say the verbal either

  1. When you know they are about to perform the behavior or

  2. When you know that if you follow up a second later with a hand signal they are 100% going to perform the behavior.

Pretty soon your dog will start to anticipate what comes after the word and will do it without your help!

Cool, right?! Encouraging our dogs to come back to us can oftentimes require a verbal cue! We can make this cue even more effective and reliable by teaching our dogs to come back to a whistle as this sound is less commonly occurring!

Check out my Off-Leash Freedom workshop:

What games do you play with your dog that require using a verbal?

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