How do you introduce a new cue?

  • Immediately after they performed the behavior

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Experienced Member
I have a question about cues.
I was always taught when teaching a new cue, first you get the behavior, then when you know they will do it you always say the new cue first. So for example if you are teaching sit and your puppy knows the hand signal but not the verbal you would say the verbal wait a second and then give the hand signal if they need help.

Since then I have noticed that several trainers and even some really good/ experienced trainers will not say the new word first but either during the behavior to pair the word with the behavior or after the dog did the behavior.

According to psychology class it is not as beneficial for learning if you say the word during or after and they will learn it a lot faster if you give the new cue first. So for example you would not get the sit and then say the word after.

I was wondering how you teach new cues. Do you say it first, during an established cue/ behavior (pairing) or immediately after?
What have you noticed, is your dog picking up the new cue easily the way you are introducing it?

I am planning on trying adding the cue to a few behaviors he has been struggling with, as a pairing to see if that helps. I also want to teach both my dogs a few new behaviors some with the cue always first and some with it during or after to see if there is a difference.
I have noticed with behaviors he does that I try to just capture he takes a really long time learning them. So I am not sure if the experiment will tell me anything.

I know that dogs are typically very flexible with training and will respond to almost any training style, but I was wondering if there is a best way to introduce new cues or does it not really matter how you introduce them. Any thoughts....? Thanks!


Honored Member
I don't stick strictly to one method... but mostly I give the cue before. That's because I used pairing for years with Zac and he learned hardly any verbal cues.

Once I discovered the concept of giving the verbal cue 2 seconds before the lure/hand signal Zac began to learn verbal cues.

I do still use pairing sometimes, either because I forget or intentionally in the early stages of shaping a behaviour when I might use pairing for a few attempts before moving on to giving the cue before. As an example today I was playing around with getting Zac to find my keys and for the first few times I said "keys" "find my keys" "I've lost my keys" while he was approaching and eating the treats I'd left with my keys. When I started giving the cue before the behaviour Zac seemed to understand the words almost straight away (even when I stopped putting treats with the keys until after he found them) but I don't really know whether he'd just figured out that was the game we were playing or whether he actually understood that the words related to the game, he does already know "find your ball".

I do think giving the cue before is better in most circumstances because Zac is less distracted by what he is doing and it also encourages him to predict. But sometimes it just feels right to use pairing and if one way isn't working I'd certainly try another.


Honored Member
I generally give the cue first, as this seem to have worked best with all my dogs. Very occasionally I will use pairing but it's not often.

With Leaf, she does seem to learn faster if I give her the cue first. Tried giving it after or when she was well on the way to learning a new trick, but it definitely took longer for her to 'get it' using that method. So I went back to what has always worked, cue first.

She now knows and understands both verbal and hand cues, as was proved yesterday when she went into a shop for the first time and had to keep moving away from the counter. I'd cue 'back' with just the smallest of hand cues and she backed perfectly. Same with forward, sit, lay down, sit pretty (yes she did show off some tricks).

As Leaf's not been in a crowded shop before (not strictly legal but the owner is another dog lover) I was well pleased with her behavior. And I feel proves that cues given first does work well.

Also, with her new trick "hide your eyes" (we're using shy as a verbal cue because I use hide for something else) the moment I removed the duct tape and used a cue she immediately popped her head under my hand. Just using duct tape, no cue, didn't work with Leaf.


Honored Member
I tend to give the cue first and the then reinforce it immediately afterwards.

For example if I want Veronica to learn a new behavior and the cue is "push" I would introduce the cue saying "push" and then right after she engaged in the behavior I will say "Good push" with a treat.

That's not scientific and it may not be "right" but it's just what comes naturally.


Active Member
I always teach the behaviour i want first by luring, shaping or sometimes if the dog isn't confident i just click what ever they offer and put a word to it on the 5th try.

Assuming the dog is confident and happy to be lured, i lure them to do what i like between 5 - 10 times then once the dog is successfully offering what i am after every time, i will put the word to it as the dog is doing the movement.