Say Please

Say Please (sometimes known as “Premack Principle”)

Ideas for cues: “okay”, “go say hi”, “off you go”

We are taught from a young age to say “please” for what we desire – why should dogs be any different? It makes our lives easier if we can teach them to say “please” as well. Through this exercise, they will start to realize that sitting, giving eye contact, or waiting is reinforcing because it leads to squirrel-chasing, going through a door, saying hi to a canine friend, etc…

How to train:

Arm yourself with treats that are a different colour than the floor/ground you’re working on – there needs to be a contrast so that the dog can see them. Cut them a little larger than you normally would – maybe twice the size of a green pea.

Stand with your dog (on leash) and anchor yourself. Your dog’s leash should have about a foot or two of slack so that they can move around a little but not much. Anchor your feet shoulder-width apart, one just a bit ahead of the other, and bend your knees a little so that you don’t get yanked over if you have a larger/stronger dog. Anchor your leash-hand to your waist so that when the dog pulls, your hand does not move away from your body. 

Step 1: Show your dog the treat and then toss it about four feet away from you where your dog can see it. Your dog will pull to get to it but you should be well-anchored so that you are not yanking them back when they go for it! Remain silent and still. The instant your dog creates slack on the leash, say your cue in an excited tone and then run with them to the treats so they can scarf them up! Repeat 5x. You should find that they loosen the leash up sooner and sooner with practice. 

Step 2: Repeat Step 1, but only say your cue if your dog turns their head toward you or makes eye contact. If you’re waiting for longer than 10 seconds and the leash is slack, feel free to cue their eye contact (if this is a reliable behaviour for them) and as soon as you get eye contact, say your cue in an excited tone and then run with them to the treats so they can scarf them up! Repeat 5x. 

Step 3: Repeat Step 2, but do not cue their eye contact – wait for your dog to figure out that this is what works! 

When your dog is a pro at this behaviour, you can start using this with other dogs, people, fire hydrants, mealtime, toys, doorways, dog park gates, whatever your dog finds most reinforcing!

Caution: Avoid yanking back on the dog’s leash when they pull toward the treats – you want to be well-anchored so it’s safe. 

Now, there’s another idea here – what if you don’t want your dog to have that “thing” or say hi to that dog/person? You can use the same process, but instead of releasing them to interact with it/them, you happy-talk or lure them away and reward them. Keep moving and that food reward patches up the disappointment they feel about missing out on the thing/person.