Good news! There are so many different ways to teach a specific dog behavior. Thankfully, with positive training, you can quickly and easily guide your dog to the final goal behavior, all without the use of force, fear or intimidation.
The most common methods are luring, capturing and shaping and your choice of which method may depend on the dog you have in front of you. I’ve used all three methods when training tricks with my girl, Willow.
Capturing is an easy, fun and rather effortless way to teach your dog a specific dog behavior (easy for you too!).
If there’s something your dog does that you like, wait for him or her to do the entire behavior, mark it and reinforce it. Voila!
In this video you’ll see me marking and reinforcing Willow for a cute little body slide she frequently does in the wet grass in our pasture when we’re taking our morning walk. It always cracks me up and I love it more than I can even express!
So I thought, why not “capture the behavior” by marking it with a verbal “Yes!”, then reinforce it with a piece of yummy food? Because she’s offering this entire dog behavior (run, dip shoulder, hit the ground and slide) rather frequently now, I’ve started adding the cue “Turf Surf!” And I must give credit where credit is due, Brad Waggoner suggested that fabulous cue!
The timing of adding the cue is important.
I don’t want to add it too soon or it may distract Willow from the body slide. Too late and well, it’s just too late! Because I’m still in the infancy of teaching her this, I wait until she’s committed to the slide before I say the cue, “Turf Surf!” A little further down the road, I’ll be able to say the cue “just before” she begins the slide. Eventually we will make further progress. I’ll be able to walk through the pasture, say the cue “Turf Surf” and she’ll do that adorable slide. Of course, she’s getting reinforced with a yummy piece of food for each body slide.
Capturing is a method you can also use for teaching your dog a sit or down. Just quietly wait and observe your dog, and the moment he sits, say “Yes!” and give him a yummy treat. Repeat. Before long, he’ll be throwing sits. Same thing with downs. Like that cute head tilt your dog does? Capture it!
Reinforcement is what makes behavior happen again. Reinforce the heck out of things your dog does that you like and you’ll get more of it. Happy human. Happy Dog!
Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities and distance consults for clients, dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. and Europe. www.coldnosecollege.com