These are the basic cues used by Willow Creek’s trainers.
“Ah, Ah” —– We condition the dogs to the sound “ah, ah” for all unwanted behaviors. For anything the dog is doing wrong, “ah, ah” can be used to redirect their focus and communicate to them that what they are doing is unwanted. “Ah, ah” is just before or during correction or negative reinforcement is used. “Ah, ah” is quick, clear, and easy. It is similar to saying no. It redirects the dogs focus to the task at hand and if the unwanted behavior persists we can apply correction or negative reinforcement as needed. This is called a conditioned aversive stimulus and can be associated with any sound as long as it is consistent, conditioned and aversive. The dog will want to avoid this sound.
“Here”—– We use the word “here” to bring the dogs to us fully. Say the dogs name and once you have their focus, say the word here. The dog is taught to come in and stay with the handler until he/she is released. You may use the “vibrate” or stimulation feature on the e-collar to reinforce this behavior. The dog has been taught to turn the collar off by coming in. If he or she leaves before the approval, turn the collar back on until the dog returns.
“Heel”—– Is when the dog is next to our side. Before we start to walk, we say the dogs name and make eye contact with the dog. Once the dog has made eye contact, we then say heel and begin to walk. If the dog starts to walk in front or pull, we use the “ah, ah” and then follow up with a tug on the lead or a light nick on the e-collar.
“Whoa”—– Whoa, is used with the pointing breed when we want the dogs to stop and stand still with out taking extra steps. “Whoa” is also used when the dog establishes point and we “whoa” them so we can flush the bird. While at home, you can “whoa” the dog for food, before going outside, or when working on retrieves. It is important to maintain the “whoa” cue on the off season to ensure that the dog does not get confused the first time out hunting for the year. “Whoa” can be reinforced with the e-collar by using a nick every time the dog takes a step or moves.
“Okay”—– This is the universal release word. Any time the dog is to be released use “okay”. This word can be used for releasing the dog from heel, the dog bed, when ready to hunt, or when they have returned with the retrieve.
“Kennel”—– Is the cue used for having the dog physically go in a kennel, going into a “mutt hut”, or going on his or her dog bed. Dogs are very place oriented so, if the dog has maintained the conditioning,they will stay until you have released them. When releasing from the dog bed, kennel, or hut, physically go to them and say “okay”. They will then be allowed off or out of the location.
“Find it” —– This cue is used when the dog is to physically find an object. Whether, it is a treat, bumper, ball, or bird, we use “find it” so; the dog knows to start searching. We continue towards the object to help the dog in the right direction until the object has been retrieved or consumed. If the dog has been threw a conditioned retrieve, we would then use the word fetch.
“Fetch” —– This term is used when the dog must go and pick an object or bird up and return to the handler’s hand. If the object is dropped, use a light stimulation or vibrate until the dog has returned to the object and picked the object up. Once the dog has picked up the object, turn off the stimulation or vibration.
“Sit”—– When the dog is asked to sit, we say the word one time. If the dog does not sit, use the “ah, ah” and then show them what you are asking or move your body forward towards the dog using subtle dominance to get them to sit. If the dog hears the word more than once, they will start to re-condition themselves to respond after it has been repeated several times. The dog then must remain sitting until they are released or until another cue is given. With the pointing breeds, typically we only use this while dog is on lead at our sides or when they are also used for waterfowl. If the dog is collar conditioned to sit, it can be reinforced with the e-collar.
Whistle conditioning is a form of communication with the dog. Depending on the queue from the whistle, will indicate to the dog, what you would like him/her to do.
One Long Tap —–One long tap or blow from the whistle will indicate one of two things: With the flushing breed or with waterfowl training, this will indicate “sit”. If the dog does not sit to the whistle, use the “ah, ah” and reinforce with the e-collar (if the dog has been collar conditioned to sit) or show the dog what you would like them to do. The second is for the pointing breeds. When one long tap has been done, the pointing dog should stop and “whoa”. This can also be reinforced with the “ah, ah” and a light nick on the e-collar for every extra step the dog takes. To release the dog, use “okay”.
Two Taps —–Two taps from the whistle lets the dog know that they are getting to far out of range or that the hunting group is going to be turning (example: the group needs to turn left or right, make two taps on the whistle and start turning. The dog should follow the lead of the group and turn). If the dog doesn’t come back into range or does not turn with the group, use a light stimulation on the collar or the “vibrate” until the dog is where he or she should be. Once the dog is in the right area, turn the stimulation or the vibration off, and the dog will continue to hunt.
Five or more Taps —–Five or more taps on the whistle indicates to the dog that they need to come all the way back to the handler. This is equivalent to the here cue and can be reinforced the in the same manner.