Thursday, February 16, 2012

Are You Afraid of Behaviors?

The other day I was training with a friend who is not a clicker trainer.

I was talking about teaching my 15 month old clicker trained dog to do a straight front and a straight sit at heel. I was having trouble getting the right behavior to click. She recommended that I use a pair of lucite rods to guide the dog into position. I am not a big fan of modeling or physical manipulation but I thought that I might be able to use a touch of the rod as a cue to move away from the rod. So I agreed to try it.

I started introducing the rod with my dog off lead. Needless to say my dog thought it was a touch stick and tried every variation of touch she could think of. I waited patiently. Soon she noticed that she was not getting clicked and started throwing her entire repretoire of behaviors at me. I waited patiently. I could not get the rod into contact with her body. About this time, my friend couldn't watch anymore. All that frenetic activity and the fact that I was not putting a stop to it was too much so she went to train outside. Of course I was putting and end to it, I was letting it extinguish. I did put my dog on a short lead to cut down on some of the wider ranging behaviors. I waited patiently. Suddenly, my dog got still and waited for my next move. I touched her shoulder with the rod. Nothing. I touched her shoulder with rod again while stepping to the side. She crossed stepped with me. Wow. She was doing it. But then I got suspicious. I stepped to the side without touching her with the rod. She crossed stepped with me. Aha, my step to the side was a cue she seemed to understand. It worked both directions.

So all I had to do was transfer the cue. Touch with rod, then step to side, dog steps to side, click and treat. I repeated this until the dog was anticipating my step with the rod touch. I touched her with the rod and waited. The dog started to step and paused and finally completed the step, click and treat. I reinforced this several times and then asked for several steps in a row before the click. Then I just left the rod in contact and waited while she made several steps, click and treat. I reinforced this several times. I had her do it while is side stepped with her and then while I pivoted in place. She was brilliant. Then I changed hands and went through the same training steps to the other side. She was brilliant. Then I got two rods and had her weave back and forth in front of me as I just stood there. This all took about five minutes.

My friend came back into the room and I called out, "Watch this." I operated the rods and the dog weaved back and forth several times before I clicked. I beamed a big smile. My friend said, "Don't do that. You will teach your dog to fidget back and forth like that instead of doing a nice front." My friend is afraid of behaviors.
This is why I mostly train alone.

George Keith
Elgin, TX

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