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What’s the reason for using a “Finish Word” and why not just stick to saying “Good boy/ girl”?

One of the first things my clients experience very early on in their training with me, is that I ask them to come up with a word that they can use to signal to their dog that they can come through a door, jump out of the car or when they go to put their food down.

The word should ideally be short and said in a way you would not normally say it, or quite simply a completely new, made up word. It should be a word all in the family can use.

In my DVD, “The complete guide to Puppy Training and home care”, I use the word “OK” said in a high pitch tone. I wouldn’t normally use this voice with people.

The word can be “Tomato”, “Come on”, “Flip”, “Pip”, “Potato” or whatever you want to use. It doesn’t matter to the dog, as long as it sounds the same (approximately) every time it is used. The important thing is that you use the same word every time.

In this article I will use “OK” and/or the “Finish Word”.

When do I use it?

To begin with we will use it as a cue for going through doors, jumping out of cars and every time we feed our dog.

Then, when we start teaching our dog to sit or lie down, we use the “Finish Word” again. At first it is to communicate to the dog, “YES, that is EXACTLY the behaviour I want you to do”. i.e. the moment your dog puts their bum on the ground when training “sit” or their  elbow touches the ground for “lie down” – that is when you say “OK” or in your case, your chosen “Finish Word”. So the “Finish Word” has now developed into a marker for the behaviour you are training.

When used in training TASKS like this, you ALWAYS pair the “Finish Word” with a reward. This could be a small treat, a game or simply making a fuss of them. At this stage, only saying the word will have no effect at all until they pair the “Finish Word” with a positive feeling.

The “Finish Word” is a training tool and a bridge to be able to communicate clearly with your dog.

So, why is “Good boy/girl” not enough?

There are three main reasons why you should use a “Finish Word”:

  1. Clarity in communication – It becomes very clear for the dog what you mean. Remember you speak two completely different languages and you are trying to teach your dog what you mean by saying certain things. By using a “Finish Word” with your dog, you will very quickly see that they will strive to do the right thing, i.e. get that “Finish Word”.
  2. Training with no fear – By using a clear marker for when they are doing the correct behaviour, you activate your dogs “learning brain”. They understand what you want and don’t feel confused and scared. When your dog is scared, it’s very hard for them to learn. When your dog is confident, it’s much easier for them to pick things up.
  3. “Good Boy/Girl” is used for extending the time for waiting, sitting and lying down – To help teach your dog to wait or stay in a particular position, you can introduce an additional piece of communication – “Good Boy/Girl”. By using “Good Boy/Girl” whilst they are performing a task like sit, you can extend the time they do that whilst remaining in verbal contact with them. When they can stop that task and return to their normal behaviour you then use the “Finish Word”.

Summary

By using a “Finish Word” in a particular tone every time the dog performs the desired behaviour, I mark the exact movement I’m looking for. It now becomes very clear to the dog and they will start to strive to do get that marker.

It is a training “tool” and you should reward with treat, toy, tickle or run together after every single “Finish Word”. If you do not, it will loose its power as a marker for the behaviour you want to train.

Good Luck with your training! And as always, let me know how you are getting on. If you have any questions or thoughts, please share them.

Ewa xx