12 Amazing (Insider) ways of Handling Reactive Dogs
Week Two: The Dress Rehearsal
Criterion:Click and treat your dog for working in a
During the Week Two class, an assistant will escort each student, her dog, and her secondary handler into the building. Once inside, you will coach the student in testing the dog’s ability to eat treats and perform simple behaviors in this environment. The assistant will then escort the student, her dog, and her secondary handler back to her car. The student will return to the classroom (without her dog) to observe the other students and their dogs complete the same exercise.
There are a number of goals in Week Two: some will be for your students and their dogs; others will be for you and your assistants. As with each week of class, the community goal will be creating a safe learning environment, and this week you set the stage.
For your students, it is a time to become familiar with the environment in which they will learn and the equipment they will be using to manage and train their dogs. During this session, your students will develop the skills they need to feel comfortable with the juggling act that managing two leashes, one reactive dog, a clicker, and reinforcement in a timely and efficient fashion entails. They also will become familiar with the routine of escorted entries and exits before they have to deal with the complexity and stress that adding other dogs and people to the workspace produces.
For the dogs, it is a time to learn the class routines as well. It is crucial that you structure this initial visit with the intent of creating a great “first impression” of the class environment for the dog, so that the dog realizes that this room is a safe space for learning where his boundaries and needs will be respected.
At the beginning of the class, I gather all the students in the classroom together. From the orientation session, they should already be familiar with the route they will take to enter with the dog. This route never, ever changes. Having students, always escorted one at a time, exit on one side and enter with their dogs on another side of the building ensures the safety of all using the facility, including those who may not be associated with the reactive dog class or aware of the safety protocols. Creating such traffic control patterns helps keep everyone safe and confident, because you know where each of the dogs is at any given point.
The Role of Assistants
For you and your assistants, this class will be the only one-on-one coaching and observation time you have with your students during the entire course. The dress rehearsal night will allow you and your staff to ask questions of the students, give additional guidance where needed, and, for the first time since your students enrolled, have a chance to observe the dogs attending. You may find that you are in for some surprises!
Because the dress rehearsal sets the tone for the remainder of the course, it is important that the protocols you follow this night are exactly the same as those you will use for the coming weeks of class. As each student arrives in the parking lot, an assistant will greet the student and direct her to the classroom. Prior to heading out to the parking lot, “debrief” each assistant on the key points you’ve learned about that student from the behavior evaluation profile she filled out on enrollment. While this debriefing can help keep your assistants safe by letting them know what to expect, assistants need to be aware that the students attending the class may not be able to accurately identify or describe the full range of their dog’s behavioral challenges.
For this reason, your assistants must be trained well in the nuances of canine body language—to detect potential problems and intervene effectively to keep everyone safe and avoid unpleasant surprises. We have certainly experienced incidents where the student indicated that a particular dog was friendly toward people, but it turned out this was not the case. In one particular instance, a nervous, shaky handler went to get her dog out of the car and cautioned the assistant to back away quickly because the dog would likely bite. Since we accept all reactive or aggressive dogs into class regardless of their triggers, it is best to coach your assistants to approach each dog during this initial class as if he would be reactive or aggressive toward humans. While this approach may seem overly cautious and unnecessary, it helps keep everyone safe.
As your assistants later escort each student to retrieve her dog from the car, they will be assessing the dog on the spot. After the class, you and your assistants will discuss any discrepancies between the behavior evaluation profile and the dog’s presentation.
Where to Focus
More than any other dog training class, reactive dog classes require that everyone follow rigid protocols about where they can look and to whom they can give eye contact when dogs are present. It takes practice to feel comfortable with conventions that feel rude and to prevent an accidentally and innocently wandering eye from causing a dog to react.
Each student should focus solely on her dog—even if the instructor or an assistant is talking with her or coaching her. She should not be looking at the other students and should avoid making eye contact with their dogs. For Week 2, it’s critical to teach students nonthreatening or neutral body postures and avoidance signals so students can watch each student-dog team enter the workspace without causing disruption.
The assistants and instructor should not make eye contact with the dogs and should get used to coaching students whose attention is focused elsewhere—as it should be, on their dogs. You may feel as if you’re missing a large piece of the communication because you can’t see a student’s reaction to what you are saying; let human body language—and actions—be your guide to whether the message is getting through. At first it may seem frustrating to need to be alert and on top of what’s going on in the workspace when you can’t watch everything with direct focus. With practice, however, your peripheral vision becomes better as you watch student/dog teams out of the corner of your eye or with an averted head.
For the dogs, of course, the rules are the opposite. Your goal for them is to make them feel comfortable looking at other dogs, strangers, or whatever triggers traditionally set them off. But when they first start out in Week 2, the best place they can focus is on their handlers—or on the floor.
To help create that great first impression for each dog, you need to coach the rest of your students to prepare for each handler’s entry. To give the entering student as much space as possible, seat the other students at the end of the room opposite the entering dog/handler team. Instruct the students who are watching to offer “avoidance signals” to the dog: turning their heads away, avoiding direct eye contact, and shifting their bodies to avoid the full-frontal presentation that is concerning to so many reactive dogs. While many dogs on entering may visually lock on to the people in the classroom, the vast majority will refocus on their handlers almost immediately if the other students have followed directions well.
The Journey to the Far End of the Room
As an instructor, you should be observing the dog/handler teams carefully as they enter the training area. How does the environment affect the student and her dog?
More often than not, the handler is incredibly nervous, often to the point of tuning out the instructor, so visual props to guide her to the far end of the room are critical communication tools. I place cones in a path from the entry to the target point at the other end of the room. My preference is for fluorescent orange cones, which are bright and stand out like traffic cones so that they are hard to miss. Following these cones will become a default behavior for your students throughout the six weeks that you are together, not just for orchestrating classroom entries and exits, but for setting up later exposure exercises as well.
I will never forget how I felt on the drive to my first class with my dog—stomach in knots, on the verge of passing out and throwing up simultaneously. Cali was such a smart boy and he could tell I was nervous, feeding off my discomfort and growing anxious himself. That day of class changed our lives forever. With my clicker in hand and my big bag of treats, we entered the room one at a time. My hands shaking, I listened to Emma intently as she instructed me on what to click and treat, teaching us what clicker training was all about. Cali absolutely loved class!
For many a nervous handler, it helps to place bright cones along the intended path. I try to have minimal impact on the dog/handler team by staying off to one side, partly behind a barrier, but where I can still see the student. From that vantage point I can find out how she and her dog are doing, guide them through the hand-targeting exercise at the far end of the room, and direct them out the exit.
Students who are attending class with human-reactive dogs will be especially nervous during their initial entry because the other students will be at the other end of the room watching them. Because these handlers may not have had the luxury of such a controlled environment for previous training sessions, it’s fairly typical for a student to fear her dog will escape her control and hurt someone. Your role, during this time, is to coach and offer support, assuring the handlers that they are all safe and that the other students in the room will be offering avoidance signals to the dog, so he won’t face many of the triggers that he may find threatening (sustained eye contact, pointing, approaching, large hand or arm movements, and so on).
Once a student is in the building, I coach her to click and feed her dog each and every step toward the far end of the room. If dogs are really stressed, they may “shark” when taking treats (use more mouth pressure than usual). In those cases, you may want to coach your clients to “feed the floor” instead of treating the dog directly. A dog that is eating off the floor cannot as easily react to triggers—it’s an incompatible behavior.
Instruct handlers whose dogs are so stressed they will not eat at all to keep offering food after each click regardless. Staff will clean up any left-behind food after the team leaves the workspace. This is a “What Would Karen Do?” moment. I remember Karen Pryor saying to me, “If Ben doesn’t eat, simply keep clicking and try to give him a treat. If he ignores you, that is his decision. At some point, when he feels better, he will eat. It is then that you will know he has turned a corner. Otherwise, just pick up the treats after you put him back in the car. Don’t make him feel guilty about it!”
After orientation, when I tried the clicker with one of my other dogs, noise-sensitive Rowan ran for the hills. She was not food-oriented. Nevertheless, the next week I brought chicken and steak (Rowan’s favorite treats), decided to use a verbal marker instead of a clicker, and brought two leashes attached to Rowan.
We were escorted to a special barrier, covered in blankets so she couldn’t peek out. My job was to click and treat her for not reacting. Rowan wanted nothing to do with the treats I had brought. Each week, the same thing happened—she refused the treats. But, as much as Rowan wasn’t “doing anything” in class, she just loved going to school! It took weeks before Rowan would eat anything in class, and it was easy for her to shut down and refuse food. Then one day, Rowan decided she liked eating treats in class, and soon she was no longer running from the sound of clickers. We took baby steps.
The Work Session
I ask the student if she has already trained this week’s foundation behavior, hand targeting: teaching her dog to touch her hand with his nose. If she has, I ask her to demonstrate the behavior and cue she has trained. I want to see what the dog is capable of doing in the workspace, and then I give recommendations to develop the behavior further by modifying the criteria as homework for the next week. If the dog knows a hand touch at the owner’s side, I may ask her to begin to develop a moving touch, where the dog is following a moving hand. Can the dog follow her hand for a single step? Two? To the left as well as the right? In front of or behind you? Encourage creativity in your students; it will serve them well in all their future training endeavors.
It’s always wonderful when a dog already knows hand targeting because it gives the students confidence that in some way they have started their dog off on the right track with training. Little victories like this are much-needed and high-value reinforcers for handlers who have been struggling with long-term reactivity problems.
If the student has never trained this behavior, I instruct her from a distance. I ask her to listen to my voice without looking at me as she is looking at and clicking and feeding her dog. This is a skill that students will practice, constantly, in every class. While for humans making eye contact with a person who is talking to you is the polite default behavior, in class it is critical that each student devote her entire attention to her dog.
Once I have verbally explained the task, I walk the student step-by-step through the training process, using the same instructions that I provide in the homework. I watch from the corner of my eyes, never looking directly at the dog and handler team unless I can do so without inciting a reactive response. Once the student has practiced the behavior, I then ask the handler to click and treat the dog as I move a single barrier. Throughout the class, we frequently move and relocate barriers, so I need to be aware of whether the moving barrier might trigger an unwanted response from the dog. At MasterPeace, these barriers are on casters that roll, so I want to be sure the dog sees the barrier move and is comfortable with the moving barrier. So far, in all my classes, no dog has ever reacted to the barrier moving, even though he might look at it. Perhaps, because everything else in the environment is so “big,” the dog figures, “That moving thing is the least of my worries.”
If Week 2 Isn’t a Stunning Success…
Oscar is a 10-pound rescued Dachshund/Chihuahua mix that is perfect at home with Karen’s dogs and cats, but outside her home he’s anxious and reacts to dogs and people. During Week 2, there was another class going on in the other half of the building unexpectedly, and Oscar shut down during his cameo appearance in the building: he wouldn’t eat and wouldn’t follow simple cues. After this discouraging start in class, Karen nevertheless worked on her and Oscar’s skills, and it paid off.
“Even before Week 3,” she said, “I already saw how impactful the classes have been and how they are improving Oscar’s behavior. I live in the country and was out walking Oscar when we came upon a neighbor shoveling out his driveway about 20 feet away. I could see Oscar getting ready to react. Before he could react, I clicked and treated him, actually chatted with the neighbor, and we moved on without incident.”
This ends the first “mini lesson” for each student. I ask the student to exit the room, again clicking and treating the dog each step of the way. When the dogs realize they are leaving the building, many launch into an old default behavior—pulling on the leash like a freight train. This class is all about replacing undesirable dog (and human!) behaviors with better ones, so I instruct students that pulling, rushing dogs are an environmental cue to them to take a breath and slow things down.
A dog pulls on the leash because it “works”: it gets him where he wants to go. The behavior of pulling on the leash frequently has a huge reinforcement history, so it is time to change tactics by denying the dog reinforcement (forward progress) for pulling and by providing reinforcement for alternative, desirable behaviors (targeting, visual check-ins, and so on). This is a valuable teaching opportunity for you, since it illustrates how real-life rewards and environmental cues can maintain behavior challenges the owners weren’t even aware they were contributing to!
Once the student returns to the room after her initial “walk-through,” I ask a few questions. I purposely question her in front of the other students to initiate discussion about how to use the equipment correctly and how to handle her dog efficiently.
How did it feel to handle the leash, clicker, and treats?
In the homework assignment from the previous week, the students were asked to practice the foundation behaviors with all the equipment needed for class placed on the dog, since this is how they will practice “in real life.” I want them to work their dogs clicking and feeding them for the correct behavior while handling all the necessary tools. While it is fine to practice behaviors off leash at home, students will require the classroom equipment to begin generalizing the behaviors in any environment outside the home; stress that it makes sense to master these skills in the quiet safety of home.
Could you feed your dog at a high rate of reinforcement while juggling all the equipment? Did it feel comfortable? Awkward?
This is a mechanical skill that students may need to practice extensively in and outside of the classroom. The goal is to develop the necessary fluency for these new skills to become default behaviors for the humans. Just as it took me some practice to get Ben from one end of the room to the other clicking and treating 50 times (and I was an experienced handler!), it may take your rookie students a while to master this skill.
Did your dog eat the treats you brought?
I use this opportunity to explain to my students how a dog’s willingness or ability to take high-value treats in a new environment is a barometer of that dog’s stress level. The handlers know which treats their dogs love best, so if the dogs are not touching even high-value treats in the workspace, we can assume they are highly stressed. Handlers need to learn to recognize their dog’s temporary food refusal as a sign of stress rather than of stubbornness. As I learned with Ben, one of the first signs of progress in later classes was an increase in appetite. When a dog that previously refused food starts eating, the student knows her dog is starting to make decisions, and that reduces his stress.
Repeat the dress rehearsal process for each handler team. After each team leaves the building, discuss with the remaining students and your assistants what you saw and how the student handled her dog. This is not a gossip session; it is a team-building activity. Students who for so long have felt socially isolated by their dog’s reactive behavior and their own responses to it frequently find it liberating. They’ll tell you, “Yes, that’s what I do, too!” or “Oh! I never realized that my doing x created y response from my dog.” The students all learn by watching each other, thereby developing the bonds that we began creating at the orientation session. Feeling like a part of a team, all working toward the same goal, is critical in a class like this!
After all the students have had their individual mini-sessions, we sit down as a group so I can ask them if they have any questions. If not, I give them reminders about how we will begin class next week: leave the dogs in cars, come into the building for a quick discussion, and then we will escort them in again, one-by-one, until for the first time they are all in the training room together with their dogs.
I tell students that most of the time student-dog teams enter the building, get to their stations successfully, and stay there, but I can’t guarantee they’ll be able to remain in the building with the rest of the class. The best advice is for students to come prepared to focus on their dogs. We will be flexible: sometimes a student/dog team needs to make several entries and exits before her dog is comfortable enough with the surroundings to be able to eat and perform simple behaviors in the classroom. Rarely, when a student’s dog can’t handle the classroom environment during Week 3, she ends up having a private lesson in the parking lot with one of the class assistants. Whatever the scenario, I promise them, “We will take care of you while you’re here.”
Week Two Home Management
“Calm Behavior Gets You Everything!”
At any given point in time when you are with a dog, one of you is training the other. While this is common knowledge among trainers, you may be surprised to learn that your dog has trained you to do any number of things, usually in response to a behavior you don’t like. Your dog barks, so you let him out of his crate. He jumps all over you because he is excited for a walk and then is rewarded with a walk. He keeps dropping tennis balls in your lap until eventually you give in and throw one, “just once.”
Attention-seeking behaviors may include barking, whining, jumping, pawing, biting at pant legs, or mouthing your hands. Attention-seeking behaviors nearly always result in the dog getting what he wants: attention! Remember the opposite of attention is not punishment; the opposite of attention is….drum roll, please … No attention!
Whenever possible, it is best to deal with attention-seeking behaviors by getting up and walking away. If a dog is displaying a behavior that is difficult to ignore, go into another room, close the door behind you, and wait for calm behavior before returning to the dog or allowing him to join you. Even a flicker of eye contact can reward an attention-seeking behavior, so it is best to avoid making eye contact with or otherwise acknowledging the dog during this process. Unless it is an emergency, the general rule of thumb is, “If the dog is demanding you do something, try something else.”
Attention-seeking behaviors are the canine equivalent of a toddler screaming, “Now! I want this now!” Waiting for dogs to offer desirable behaviors and then rewarding them with attention and other assorted reinforcers creates dogs that ask “Please?” instead of demanding “Now!” This strategy creates dogs that make much better companions, since they have learned that the route to getting the things they want is through offering the handler what she wants. It’s really a win-win situation!
Because attention-seeking behaviors typically have well-established reinforcement histories, if the handler changes the household rules, these behaviors frequently get worse before the handler sees improvement. Imagine that you have spent the last dozen years getting your favorite beverage from the soda machine at work only to find out one day that it doesn’t dispense your soda when you press the button. On day one, you may mutter under your breath, mourning the loss of a dollar you will never see again. On day two, you may shake or kick the machine, uttering a string of soda-deprived profanities. On day three, you give up, walk down the hall, and try another machine. You tried harder at what had always worked previously before giving up a strategy that was no longer paying off, and attention-seeking dogs function in much the same manner.
Dogs can also feel frustrated at rule changes. For dogs that tend to use their teeth when frustrated, this can be disastrous. Implementing only one home-management change per week will lessen the amount of stress your dog experiences as new standard operating procedures (SOP) are established. When adding structure, it’s important that you do so slowly and safely at a rate the dog can accept and adapt to readily.
Give your dog attention only when you want to reinforce the behavior he is offering at the time. Reward the behavior you like. When you encounter behavior you don’t like, these are your options:
•Manage the environment to prevent the dog from rehearsing that behavior: Use baby gates at the entry to your home to prevent him from jumping all over you, for example.
•Ignore the behavior: This works for attention-seeking behaviors but not for self-rewarding behaviors like counter-surfing. Ignoring a counter-surfing dog as he eats an entire contraband pot roast will not make the behavior go away!
•Change the behavior by teaching your dog what you would like him to do instead.
You may find keeping notes in a place where your entire family can access them will be helpful in getting consistency. In the table opposite, you’ll find that the end results are often the same for the dog, but the ways in which he earns those rewards may need to change considerably!
Ask yourself the following questions:
•What are the opportunities or circumstances where undesirable behaviors are likely to occur?
•What are the undesirable behaviors we want to eliminate?
•What is rewarding or maintaining these behaviors?
•How will I deal with this behavior?
•What do I want my dog to do instead of the unwanted behavior?
Problem Behaviors and Solutions
Creating a similar chart for your dog’s problem behaviors and identifying potential solutions may be extremely helpful!
Week Two Foundation Behavior
Hand targeting is such a wonderful, versatile behavior. It is one of the first behaviors I like to teach to puppies. Well-trained, a hand target can function as an “invisible leash,” enabling you to move your dog from one location to another without equipment or conflict. Guest wants to sit next to you on the couch? Use a hand target. While some of your friends may grab their dogs by the collar to pull them off the couch, and still others may have to toss treats to lure their dogs from the sofa, you have an easier solution: Simply hold your hand down near the floor, say, “Touch!” and, as if by magic, your dog just gets off the couch, offering her spot to your guest. You can use hand targeting to teach everything from heeling to interaction with various agility obstacles or the scale at the vet’s office!
Hand targeting can also be part of recall training. The presentation of a hand target is a nice, big visual signal to your dog that functions as a magnet, bringing him into your space exactly where you want him. Say your dog’s name, hold your hand high and then sweep your hand down so that your dog will come right into your body on arrival. If your dog is far away, you may need to raise your hand higher than if he’s close to you, but dogs excel at noticing even subtle movement and usually read an emphatic hand signal well.
Perhaps you have met a dog that, on hearing a recall cue, bounds back to his handler only to continue running gleefully past her, heading behind her at full speed. While the image may make us giggle, it’s not funny for the handler and may be downright dangerous for the dog, especially for a reactive dog. Incorporating hand targeting into your recall training can prevent such problems before they crop up.
Hand targeting is great for shy dogs and can be taught as a “cure” for hand shyness. Hand targeting provides “bouncy” dogs that jump up when meeting people a great alternative greeting behavior, since touching a hand target presented at waist height or lower requires a “four-on-the-floor” greeting. From a young age, I teach all of my Golden Retrievers to touch a person’s hand gently when it is presented in front of their noses, interacting politely for a brief moment before happily reorienting to and reengaging with me.
Finally, you can use hand targeting as an incompatible behavior to redirect reactive or aggressive dogs. Instead of having your dog lock on to and react toward a particular stimulus in the environment, you can teach your dog to target your hand when he encounters a trigger. If you want to get really crafty, consider teaching a duration target, where your dog learns to press his nose into your palm until released!
Remember to practice this exercise with your dog’s training equipment on. It will help you both feel more comfortable with the equipment you will be using in class and in daily life.
To start, you want your dog to offer lots of hand touches (and get lots of good rewards) from close up—only 1” or 2” away. As your dog gets more confident, you can gradually increase the distance he has to reach to touch your hand, or, separately, you can vary your hand position. Be inventive and make it fun.
Training Hand Targeting
1.Rub food on your hand.
2.Place your hand half an inch in front of your dog’s nose.
3.Click as he moves toward your hand, and then treat.
4.Repeat, reinforcing your dog with a treat after every click.
a.Vary your location in the room.
5.Continue steps 1–4 until your dog is touching your hand immediately upon presentation. Try the following variations:
a.Place your hand above your dog’s head.
b.Place your hand below his head.
c.Place your hand to the left of his head.
d.Place your hand to the right of his head.
e.Place your hand one inch from his nose; click as he takes a step toward you to touch your hand.
f.Place your hand two inches away from his nose; click as he moves toward your hand.
6.Practice this behavior ten times a day in a distraction-free environment.
Continuing Education: Default Sits
Continue to practice your default behavior from last week. If all has been going well with your training, you can begin introducing low-level distractions, like the television playing quietly in the background. Adding distractions will help build reliability into the behavior and will keep the learning process fun, exciting, and unpredictable for your dog. Work in short sessions, a few times a day.
Week Two Emergency Behavior
Creeping: Slo-Mo Wheeling
One day I was walking Ben in my neighborhood when we encountered a black Labrador that had a well-established pattern of barking and rushing out the door to greet Ben and me each time we’d walk by and along his invisible fence boundary. Each time until that one day, that is. On that day, the Lab decided that the momentary displeasure of an electric shock from his invisible fence was a small price to pay for the opportunity to engage in actual unsupervised and rude greeting behaviors. He blasted through his fence and proceeded to insert his nose up Ben’s butt.
I felt my belly start rumbling, the inklings of panic blossoming in my gut. Ben looked at me, surprised. I collected my thoughts quickly and gave him the cue, “Shhhhhhhh,” which signaled Ben that he and I were going to start walking together… very…very slowly. I knew if we ran at this point, the Lab probably would have bitten Ben in the rear and might well have decided to come after me, too. I knew our only chance to get away safely was to creep away as slowly and deliberately as possible. I continued to walk in this fashion with Ben for about 10 to 15 steps, until the Lab lost interest and walked away.
It was a scary moment, but exhilarating as well. Ben was able to make such good choices, whipping his head toward me at a time that previously would have been overwhelming and possibly dangerous for us both! I was able to rely on the hard work we’d both put into establishing reliable default behaviors. I remembered to “breathe and assess” rather than “scream and run away!” Ben was able to move with me, willingly, confidently, and comfortably, at any pace I dictated. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your dog will turn and keep pace with you reliably, allowing you to dictate where you go and how quickly you get there?
“Creeping” is “wheeling” with your dog, in any direction, at a speed slow enough that you could literally creep away from another dog without inciting any arousal at all from your dog or the trigger dog.
As with all the training exercises you will learn, while training this behavior you should always practice in a quiet, controlled, distraction-free environment. Do practice with all of the equipment you and your dog use in the classroom.
1.Walk forward with your dog at a brisk pace.
2.Begin to slow your pace until you are moving so slowly even a 90-year-old woman with replacement hips would say, “Hey, hurry up!” If your dog wants to speed up, talk to him in a slow and quiet voice, gently encouraging him to stay with you. You can stick a treat in your dog’s face to lure him at first if you need to.
3.Slowly come to a halt, clicking as you do so. Slowly reach for a treat, and feed him slowly, while he is positioned at your side.
4.Very slowly start to turn to your right. As you do so, click and give your dog a treat as you arrive at the 90-degree position. Try to deliver your treat slowly and in the correct position before your dog has a chance to forge ahead. If he does forge ahead, take a couple of steps back and use a treat lure to get your dog back into heel position. Keep a treat in front of your dog’s nose until he gets used to moving his body slowly.
5.Once the turn is complete, click the dog, reach for your treat, and deliver it slowly and quietly at your side.
6.Continue practicing this behavior.
7.As the behavior becomes more reliable, you can begin fading the treats you offered in the beginning and in the middle of the turn, only clicking and treating the dog as he completes the turn with you.
8.I find it helpful to place this behavior on a verbal cue as well. Ben’s cue was “Shhhhhhh,” which was accompanied by my placing my finger up to my lips, just as I would signal a toddler to be very, very quiet.