She is always listening, not a word or action gets by this one.
Stepping off the path, I was laying the ground work for getting some needed distance. When Luke was a little man, he had an occurring problem with running to greet people and dogs. If new people and/or dogs arrived at the park; he felt the need to run to say hi. Not everyone wanted to say "hi" in return so I got in the habit of leashing him when I saw someone coming. It wasn't long until Luke realized that the "leash" word meant that new folks had arrived. Upon seeing this response from him I realized that I had to work on the "no cue" giveaway. To this day, if I say "leash" to Luke he looks around to see who's coming.
There are many things in our life with dogs that need to have hidden cues. That means that you don't want to tip your dog off to something. Let's face it, our dogs are far smarter than we think they are. So when I do something, I always think to myself "will Luke and Elsa figure this out?" The answer is usually yes so I need to implement the action with a day to day association. If you associate an action to a reaction it can become a cue.
Cue: anything said or done, that is followed by a specific action. A sensory signal used to identify experiences, facilitate memory.
You know how when you put on a specific pair of shoes; your dog already knows you are going for a walk? Or when you get out a certain towel, it is bath time? Cues, they are all cues and it doesn't take much for our dogs to "get" them. One cue that I am continually working on is distance. When I am out walking Luke and Elsa and see a dog up ahead of us that I do not want to interact with I get distance. The act of getting distance can tip them off if it is a cue; so I get distance often and switch it up. Sometimes distance is just a step off the path for no reason. Other times we step off and then back on again to say "hi" to a dog. Mixing it up keeps it from becoming a cue.
During your day to day, pay attention to the cues that you are creating. If you've accidentally created cue; you can undo it if you work hard and consistently. But once a cue is very set in, it can be difficult to get rid of it entirely. Different dogs will learn cues at different rates. Elsa is a fast cue learner. She is a watcher, this girl never misses a thing; so it takes a great deal of work on my part not to set cues. It is a constant work in progress to try to not let my actions become cues.
Does picking up my grey running shoes mean a walk? Elsa might think that it does so I put them in the yard. Touching a leash can send your dogs into a frenzy; so pick it up and move it somewhere often. Opening a particular cabinet cues a reward, so change it. Change the meaning of your actions if you want to get rid of a cue or desensitize a behavior. Association is everything for dogs; if you think in those terms it is much easier to understand them. Pay attention to your actions and your dog's reactions. We create cues on a daily basis without ever knowing it. By watching your dog's reactions we can discover our own actions.