BH250: Creativity with Cue Concepts

Instructor: Donna Hill

Course Details

Have you ever wondered how you can use cues to improve your dog's performance? Or why your dog inconsistently responds to a cue you give? Have you suspected that she's actually responding to a different cue than the one you think you're giving? Are you sure she really understands your verbal cues?  

In this class, we'll address all of these questions, and more! We will discuss exactly what a cue is, the different forms cues can take, and how to find out which ones make the most sense to your dog. You will learn the fastest and easiest way to add cues to behaviors, how to train several cues for the same action, and how to change cues. You'll discover the secrets to stimulus control (that elusive ability to get control over a cue so that your dog only does the behavior when you ask for it) and latency (the speed at which your dog responds to you). 

Not feeling creative? Creativity can be learned! Throughout the class, we'll be looking at the many ways we can improve the variety of imaginative new ideas for behaviors our dogs can do. 

We'll also play with some fun advanced concepts, like "teaching with opposites" in order to proof a cue, using cues as reinforcers, how chaining and back chaining work, and the concept of "adduction" (adding two behaviors together) in order to teach really cool combination tricks. 


There are no scheduled sessions for this class at this time. We update our schedule frequently, so please subscribe to our mailing list for notifications.

Registration begins at 9:30 AM PDT.

Enrollment limits: 10 gold, 25 silver, unlimited bronze. If you are interested in a bronze level, you can sign up any time during the registration period.Bronze spots are unlimited. 

For answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.


Cue syllabus

Week 1

What are cues? 

Types of Cues. Examples of each.

Which type wins?

Choosing Cues. Conditioning cues. 

Examples of cues used with special needs dogs (deaf, blind)

Discrimination in Dogs

When and How to Add a Cue to a Behavior

Changing cues from one to another
Train several different cues to one behaviour

Adding a New Cue to an Old Behavior

How do you Know that the Dog 'Knows' a Cue?

Can I ever Stop Using the Cue?

Proofing a Cue

Practical: Make a list of all behaviors your dog knows

Test to see if your dog knows the cues you think she does. 

Choose 2 behaviors to give an object cue and train it.

Optional Experiment: Checking to see how tuned into our body language our dog is

Week 2
Lecture: Poisoned Cues. 

What is a Prompt? 

Latency of a Behavior

Speed of a Behavior 

What is a Concept and How Does it apply to Cues? 

Testing your cues: How do you know your dog really knows them?

Creating subtle cues for performing/incorporating them unobtrusively


Improve latency of 2 behaviors

Fade an obvious cue into a more subtle one

Week 3

Lecture: Teaching with Opposites

Behaviors that Use Environmental Cues

Practical: Choose one set of behaviors and use them to train the cues.

Week 4


Testing to See if Your Dog Really does know a Cue 

Stimulus Control, The 4 tests for Stimulus Control.

 Match to Sample

Practical: Choose three behaviors and put them through all 4 tests for stimulus control

Train a dog 2 (or 3) different behaviors with the same environmental cue (object) but different verbal cue 

Week 5

Lecture: Chaining and Back Chaining

Useful Tips


Premack Principle

Anticipation, good or bad? 

Identifying chains in dog sports and life 

Practical: Choose 4 behaviors from any dog sport, trick, or service task and train them in a series.

Choose 4 more and back chain them together.

Week 6

Lecture: Blending Behaviors to Create More Interesting/Challenging Behaviors (Adduction)

THEN (An Advanced Skill!)

What is Creativity?

How to Develop More Creativity with dog behaviors

Brainstorm with the group to generate ideas for new behaviors to teach your dog by blending.

Choose two pairs of two behaviors that you want to blend and train your dog to blend using AND. Use your newly learned creative techniques.

Choose one pair of behaviours that you want to blend using THEN. Apply your newly learned creative techniques.

Prerequisites and Equipment

Prerequisites: Dog must be able to perform at least 12 different behaviors. Can be basic ones (such as sit, down, nose touch), tricks, advanced behaviors from any sport, or any combination.

: Whatever objects or obstacles you need for your dog to be able to perform the behaviors.

Course Testimonials


Donna's lessons/lectures and videos provided extremely useful, clear and detailed information. She gave us background theory and practical approaches to cues. I will continue to refer to the materials from this class for a long time to come. I truly cannot believe how much I learned from this course.      

A very strong community formed in Donna's Cue class. Perhaps it is partly due to the evolution of the Fenzi Academy as we get to know each other in various classes. It most certainly though is largely due to Donna's very personal engagement and connection in the class. Her lectures are filled with detail and numerous excellent videos to guide each stage of the process. We learned to identify what cues our dogs actually know. We found that sometimes they were responding to body movement, not the verbal cue we thought they knew. We learned to get the behavior the way we want it with low latency (speed) and stimulus control before adding the cue. Donna encouraged each of us to stay at our own level and not move ahead until we were ready.       

Donna has a way of presenting complex information in a manner that is easy to understand. She broadens the topic from "this is for competition" to "this is for life" which I really appreciate. She mixes very practical methods with more academic methods. This was a fabulous class that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone who would like to improve their use of cues.

I highly recommend this class for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of cues and what they mean to our dogs. Donna Hill is an excellent instructor who prepares great lectures and gives lots of prompt feedback on assignments. I feel this class was well worth my time. I will be working on, and studying, the concepts learned in this class for as long as I am working with dogs. Katheleen C.

This is what I wrote in a thread that Donna started for our last week of class and would like to share it here as well since it sums up my thoughts on this class. ~ "This has been such a fabulous class and I'm sorry that it is nearing the end. Donna, you are an exceptional teacher! You provided us with excellent lecture materials and followed it up with great guidance and suggestions as we worked through the assignments. Buffy and I have had lots of fun and we both have learned so much. As we continue on our training journey I will work hard, and use what I have learned through this class, to maintain existing behaviors and teach new behaviors so that we always strive to get better stimulus control, low latency, and speed." Brenda W.

Everyone who wants to add depth to their dog training should take this class. It truly makes you understand how important it is plan your training and execute your cues carefully. It also makes you even more aware of how smart our great canine companions are - even when our communication is boggled at best, they somehow figure out what we are trying to communicate. I cannot say enough good things about this course and the instructor.This testimonial is to Donna. It is apparent in her teaching that she is well educated and well versed in this topic and that she has applied her knowledge in a practice. She also has good teaching skills.  Diane S.

The intellectual conversations taking place between students and instructor was invigorating and inspired me play along at home even though I was a bronze participant. Stacey M.

Donna Hill has an innate curiosity about dog behavior in general and a keen eye when it comes to seeing communication issues that the trainer might miss. While the apparent content of this course is a review of concepts that the participant may well be aware of, it's something else to be held accountable for applying them in the training process. Beyond the homework, the discussions led into many interesting areas. Judith S