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Guide Dog Class Lecture: Obedience

Obedience exercises can be an enjoyable way to engage with your dog and reinforce responsive and focused behavior. This, in turn, can positively influence the dog’s behavior when in public. A calm, attentive, and responsive dog makes for a pleasant companion and is also important from an access standpoint when riding on public transit, shopping, or settling in a restaurant.  

Obedience verbal cues are said while you are holding onto the leash only (NOT the harness handle). The dog may or may not be wearing their harness. 

In order to get the dog’s attention, obedience cues are generally preceded by the dog’s name and are given in conjunction with hand gestures and specific leash handling.  

Obedience Verbal Cues 

Heel – The Position 

The dog is at your left side, facing the same direction as you are with their head next to your left leg. This verbal cue prescribes a desired position for your dog relative to you, whether you are standing still or in motion. The dog normally assumes this position whether you are standing or walking, or if your dog is doing sits and downs.  

Sit - Dog sits on its haunches – usually next to the handler’s left leg, facing the same direction as the handler.  

Down - Dog lays on the floor next to the handler’s left leg facing the same direction as the handler. The head may be up or in resting position on the legs. 

Stay - Dog remains in a stationary position until the handler returns or calls the dog. 

‘OK’ - This word releases a dog from a previous cued position. 

Come – a casual recall The dog approaches the handler, coming close enough for the handler to interact and touch the dog as well as grasp the collar. 

Over Here - Not an automatic response, the dog follows a collar cue from the left side of and behind the handler, ending up on the right side of the handler. This action is done when the hinge of the door is on the dog’s side so as to protect their paws when passing through a door. 

Heel – the action of re-positioning the dog  When your dog is elsewhere, this cue calls the dog into heel position. This cue may be used to remind your dog to return to position. Examples include: during heeling, after a stay exercise, after a release (‘ok’), after a ‘come’, or ‘over here’ verbal cue. 

Wait- This cue is used when you want the dog to temporarily remain in a specific location, such as waiting to get in or out of a vehicle, paying at a cashier, placing a food bowl on the ground, or going through airport security. 

Obedience Basics 

Obedience verbal cues differ from guide work verbal cues in that the dog is generally expected to respond regardless of the setting. In contrast, a guide dog only responds to a guide work verbal cue when it is safe or possible to complete the action requested. This is a big responsibility and uses a lot of brain power!  

So, obedience sessions offer the dog a refreshing opportunity to automatically respond to their handler with familiar cues that do not involve discrimination of response based on the team’s safety.  

Because of the inherent nature of their work, a guide dog is a confident creature and will require an engaged handler. If a guide dog is offered the choice about whether to respond or not during practical obedience behaviors, they may become unreliable in their guidework responses.  

Regularly practicing obedience cues provides the dog an opportunity to earn positive reinforcement that improves overall attention and responsiveness, which can then improve guidework responses as well. As such, we encourage you to continue to practice obedience to varying degrees in practical situations for the duration of your working life together.  

Audio Streaming

You can stream the audio of the class lecture here, via a Soundcloud widget. If using a screen reader, please select the "Play" option below.


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