Have you ever heard someone speak to their dog in another language and just thought-WHAT? Animals of any kind can all be trained on different or multiple cues; these cues may be verbal, visual, scents, or tactile. For example, Rory, my dog, is trained in two languages (French and English,) visual cues, and scent cues. There are some really great advantages to multi-cue behaviors.
The reason that I trained Rory in two languages is that when other people are around her and don’t know the rules of behavior, they could be inadvertently be untraining a lot of the hard work I put into her. So while she does know all her basic behaviors, I don’t want those words to become white noise to her. Also, it creates a better bond between us as dog and trainer so that she is fully aware I mean business when I’m talking to her in French.
Training on multi-cues is also VERY mentally stimulating. It reaches out to all of their senses which they need to feel fulfilled. Many zoos and aquariums are doing scent cues with sea lions, and otters. They’ll present a scent (cinnamon, for example,) and train the animal to respond accordingly to the desired behavior matching that scent.
Another great example of training like this is for animals that have a disability such as being blind or deaf. You can get really creative with how to train their behaviors! If your animal is older and going blind or deaf then it is in their best interest that you start to retrain them to the cues which will fit them accordingly. When I was working with sea lions, we had one, Lilli, who was blind. So before her eye surgery, her trainers at the time changed over all of her cues that were visual, to be now tactile. This important training gave her the best quality of life that was attainable and she loved to learn new things!
It’s really a pretty simple process too- if your animal already knows to sit, for example, all you do is pair the new cue with the old. Eventually, you’ll fade out the old cue, or continue to use it on occasion depending on your goals.
EXAMPLE: English to French cues.
Rory, sit. Reinforce.
Rory, assieds, sit. Reinforce. Repeat step multiple times until animal is grasping behavior.
Rory, assieds….sit. Reinforce. This time you’re giving it a pause to test it out, but not yet punish them.
Eventually, they won’t need that extra help of “sit” once they’ve grasped what you’re asking. Of course, this plan will be a little bit different depending on what it is your training, but that is your general idea.
All in all, it makes training more fun for your animal because they’re being constantly stimulated, it can strengthen your bond, and can even be necessary for their quality of life. Usually, before I go into a session with Rory, I challenge myself to make that session unique for her whether it be by only using visual cues, or a certain language etc. Try out this challenge with your animal, and let me know your thoughts!
Lilli, the greatest teacher I could’ve ever had♥