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Paw Work Cue Question

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Tessa and Dean are learning to sit next to me and lift their paws for Rally FrEe. They both do this in front, but I haven't done much with it in heel and side.


I have no trouble with actually teaching the tricks, but I have a bit of a cuing issue.


I am severely and incurably left/right challenged. Both dogs know to lift their left paw when in front of me on "wave" and the right paw on "lift". But when the dog is in heel or side, it flips on me. (Note: this is a human issue, not a dog issue!!). Now I have to really think, and flip around and flip back, to figure out which paw gets which cue.


Obviously, I can't be doing that in the middle of a run!!


As I see it, I have two options.


1. Teach six cues. One for each paw in each position. So, wave and lift in front, far paw cue and near paw cue on my left, and far paw cue and near paw cue on my right.


Tessa and Dean could learn six cues, and I could remember which is which because now left and right paws are out of the picture - each paw has a different cue relative to me in both heel and side.


But it seems rather cumbersome to have six cues that all mean "lift a paw".


2. Teach a cue that means "lift far paw" and "lift near paw" relative to me. I favor this, but I'm not sure if it would make sense to the dogs. Let's say my cues were "tip" and "tap" (they won't be). "Tip" means "lift far paw" and "Tap" means "lift near paw". So, in heel, "Tip" means "lift your left paw" and in side "Tip" means "lift your right paw". But in both cases, it means "lift the outside paw".


Does that make sense?


Has anyone done anything like this? If so, did the dog understand? I do have a few cues that are relative to my position. "Switch" is "turn away from me", whether the dog is on the left or the right. Technically, the same cue signals a turn in two different directions, but the correct one is dependent on where I am. Dean and Speedy know this on verbal and can do it without any extra body language from me.


But I'm wondering if anyone has actually trained paw lifts (or paw work of any kind) in heel and side this way, and if the dog understood. Ultimately, the goal is to have this on verbal alone, so helping hand signals will need to drop eventually.


Thanks for any input!! I know a lot of you don't work dogs on left and right outside of Agility, but I figured I'd throw it out there just in case someone actually has.

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I've also got switch, and check (into me) on verbals. I see no reason why it would be any different for a paw lift, honestly I think it would be easier in relation to you versus left or right paw.


I'm going to go teach that now and see what happens :-)


A suggestion that was made to me since I posted this was to lean toward the dog when cueing the far paw and lean away from the dog when cueing the close paw.


That makes a lot of sense, and I think will make my expectations to the dog clear.


What I will ultimately need to test is whether or not the dog will be able to judge which paw to lift on cue once the leaning is faded out.


It's going to be fun to see. I have decided to give the "far paw"/"near paw" concept a try.


If you do try this, please let me know how it goes and what works and what doesn't!!

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  • 1 month later...

Just an update:


In the end, I seem to have defaulted to using the cue that I would use to have the dog lift the paw in front of me, with as much hand signal as necessary to communicate to the dog which paw I want to see raised (so, "wave" for the dog's left paw and "lift" for the right, no matter which position the dog is sitting in). I hope in time that I will be able to fade the hand signal completely. Dean can actually do that on verbal if I want the paw that is farthest from me (so, his left when he is on my left or his right when he is on my right). If I want the closer paw, I have to help more. Tessa still needs help with both.


The cool thing in Rally FrEe is that we get our course maps ahead of time so we can plan our Free Choice behaviors, so I know that in our upcoming trial, all I will need is a right paw raise with the dog on right. (Yay!!) For the next week, that will be the only paw raise we practice!! And I will have it fixed in my mind to say "lift" and not worry about left or right at all!!


I still hope, in time, to get this a lot more fluent - to the point where I can simply ask, using verbal and a slight lean, for the lift that I want. This would be a great distance move for Freestyle.


To be honest, though, I haven't really worked on it much, so I am going to have to rely on what we have and hope to improve it in the future.

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