Training Tidbits: Why Won’t the Halloween Decoration Play Fetch?


Happy Halloween from Doglando! In honor of the holiday, we’re doing our usual Tuesday Training Tidbit today… and we’re talking all about cues.

What cues do you think the dog is getting from this Halloween decoration which tell it, “This thing might play with you!”?

What is a cue? Let’s define it

Cues are unintentional environmental stimuli like:

  • Shape
  • Size
  • Smell
  • Sound
  • Movement

All of these stimuli convey information. They aren’t specifically directed toward the dog, they just happen to be present in the environment. They differ from signals, which are intentional bursts of information, directed specifically toward the dog. The prop skeleton isn’t giving any signals right now, but it’s sure giving out a lot of cues!

What are the cues in this video?

From a behavior standpoint this video is incredibly interesting: What cues is this Golden using to tell it that it is looking at a human who might play fetch?

It probably sees a seated human shape, and the decoration probably smells a lot like the human family who put it there. The Golden does not seem to be relying on motion or sound to let it know what it’s dealing with — or maybe it is just so excited to possibly have a playmate that it is ignoring the cues of “not moving” and “not making any noise,” which should be telling it that it’s trying to play with a prop skeleton.