Fixing A Poisoned Cue


Experienced Member
One of the first tricks I taught Brody way "roll over". I lured him into it, and it went fairly quickly. Being a new trainer, I quickly added a verbal and hand cue. I moved on to other tricks, including "spin" (rotate counterclockwise) and "twirl" (rotate clockwise), also with verbal and hand cues. His spin and twirl he will do readily, although I am not really strict on the direction of rotation. He will not respond to the cue for roll over, but instead will do a spin or twirl. The hand cues are similar. I was told by Susan Garrett that my cues were poisoned and I needed to start over, shaping this time instead of luring. I am really having a hard time with this. What I have been doing sitting on the floor with a bag of treats and the clicker and then clicking for pretty much anything he offers that comes anywhere close to looking like he's even thinking about rolling over, if that makes sense. He will lie down, flop over on his side, move his head over his shoulder, roll onto his back, etc, in very slow progression, and I will click for him in those positions as well as for staying in them rather than getting up. Then he will suddenly start rolling back and forth, without getting to his feet at all, and I will click for each completed roll in either direction. To me, I feel like I am giving him adequate reinforcement for doing what I want, or even coming close, or even looking like he is thinking about it, but he will then stop his rolling and get up and start pawing at my hands or just sit or lie down and wait for me to give him some direction. He has gotten very good at shaping, as I have improved my timing and delivery of treats, but this hurdle seems to be a particularly difficult one. Any suggestions?


Honored Member
It's a mistake all beginners (and more advanced trainers too at times) make - hand signals which are similar and thereby confusing to the dog. We've all been there, done that, no biggie:D

This is what I'd do.

First, give the roll over trick a miss for a while, maybe even a month or two or three even. Use clear hand signals for the spins and continue with those but 'forget' roll over.

Then, when you do start back with roll over when Brody is in the 'down position', I would lure (yes grand he's good at shaping but he needs to re-learn from the start with roll over) use a lure just over his shoulder, from the other side so he has to 'look over his shoulder' (it's a bit hard to explain) and he should start to 'roll over' to get the lure. Once he's 'got it' then click/treat. I am pretty sure Kikkopup or someone else, could be on this forum, has a video showing what I mean.

Then with the hand signal, make it VERY different from the one you use for his spins.

But for now, forget the trick completely, Brody will only get more confused if you keep trying. I've said somewhere else today on another post, it's amazing how dogs have some form of residual memory and will do, after a decent break, a trick they've either had problems learning or, in this case a poisoned signal, the trick with perfect ease:) And leave you thinking why the heck they didn't get it in the first place! Advice on that, forget wondering and thank your lucky stars they've 'got it':D