Monday, October 25, 2010


Over the past year or so, I have clicker trained Cadence to do a few cute tricks, just for fun and for us both to get better at shaping behaviors.  Unfortunately, one of the things I am worst at as a trainer is getting behaviors on verbal cue.  In fact, all of my dogs seem to learn and perform best when I just shut up.  Trying to turn over a new leaf though, I made a list of the behaviors I have trained and what the intended verbal cue is for all of them, and have been working at testing his understanding of these verbals.

Ugh.  I discovered quickly that the verbal for one of his first tricks, walking backwards, (“back”) was not understood at all.  I was stumped about why this was, when we have repeated it so many times.  It finally occurred to me that every time I worked on “back,” I knelt down on the ground so that I could easily deliver the reinforcement in position by tossing it between his paws after he backed up.  I was basically “blocking” the new, verbal cue – my kneeling down was his signal to back up, therefore any new cue I gave him (giving a verbal command) was meaningless as it didn’t give him any new information.  Ah, finally some of the learning from my many books, seminars, and classes was starting to sink in!

So I started carefully separating the two cues – I would give the verbal first, then kneel down.  After a few reps and a couple more practice sessions, I think he was picking it up. 

Today, I decided to give his whole repertoire of tricks a little workout.  We started with “back” and he was trotting backwards nicely.  So far so good, until I tried to switch to other commands.  But once we’re in reverse mode, “Sit” apparently means “sit for a half second, then back up” and “Down” means “lie down for a second, then back up.”  Fun.  He was wearing a path in the living room floor going forward, backing up, repeating.  It was cute though.

Finally stopped that behavior, and discovered that his new, cute paw wave has suddenly become the default whenever he is asked to sit.  Sit and wave.  Sit and wave.  Butt hits the ground and the right paw goes straight up, never mind if I asked for it or not.

At least his newest two tricks seem to be going well, but they both have very obvious physical cues – weaving between my legs and putting his paws up on my outstretched arm to stretch. 

Sigh.  Got to keep working on this.  Poor Noodle.  It is a wonder dogs ever figure out what on earth we want with all our yammering.

sacked out cade

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