Last week I switched from a PC to a Mac. I had to reset my wireless internet router or modem or whatever. It was a mini-disaster.
I am not technically literate. I don't know the difference between RAM and ROM, memory or hard drive. I can't tell a gig from a meg.
I did, however, have all kinds of information. Really useful information such as:
Gateway login, network key, network name, lots of usernames and passwords, and other things about which I have no clue.
One might think that because I had all that information right there at my fingertips that setting up the wireless internet connection on the new computer would be but a breeze.
Nay nay, says I.
Oh I had all the information alright. I just didn't know when and where to put it all. So what's a good technically incompetent user to do — why I just started plugging information in anywhere I could put it.
I ran into a lot of walls. A lot of "Access Denied," "No Such User Name Exists," and "Incorrect Password." I had all this information and couldn't do anything with it.
Clearly, I eventually got it all figured out. It took me some time, but I somehow figured out the right combination of information to input. But don't ask me to do it again – I haven't the slightest idea how I did it. I couldn't reproduce it if I tried.
Which got me to thinking about dogs and how we teach them. How frustrating must it be for our dogs who don't know what we want, but that it must be one of the 15 tricks they know. So they just start guessing. Is it a sit? A rollover? A speak? A down? A high-five?
We all laugh when our dogs go through "the routine." After my wireless internet experience, I don't laugh at my dogs anymore. It's rough not knowing what to do or when to do it. It's really hard to figure out what works when you're grasping at straws.
I'm generally pretty good at teaching my dogs the names of their behaviors and only paying them for those behaviors when I ask the dog to do it. So my dogs don't guess a whole lot. They know it's easier to wait for me to ask them to do something than to run through all the things they know how to do.
If your dog is guessing — running through his entire repertoire until he gets to the right one — have some sympathy for your pooch and teach him the names of those behaviors. You'll save him a lot of time (and frustration) and take all the guesswork out. Here's how to do it:
Let's use sit as the example. Immediately before your dog sits, say the word "sit." Click and treat each time your dog sits. If he doesn't sit, don't click and treat. Don't repeat your word. Just wait a few seconds and turn away if he doesn't sit. Once you've paired the word "sit" together 15 or 20 times with the action of the dog sitting, try to say the word "sit" about a second before your dog begins to put his rump down. What you're trying to do is create some distance (in time) between when you say the word and when the dog does the behavior.
Once you're saying the word a second or two before the dog does the behavior, you'll now only pay for the behavior when you ask for it. So say the word "sit," then click and treat when your dog does the behavior. Repeat that process. The next time, delay saying the word sit. If your dog hesitates, even for a second, say the word sit and then click and treat. So if your dog delays sitting, reward him by giving him the cue to sit. And then click and treat the correct response. You're teaching your dog to wait for you to say the word.
You can also do it this way, as well: Ask your dog to sit, then click and treat when he does. Repeat. The third time, ask your dog for a different behavior and click and treat for doing the correct behavior. If your dog sits, he gets no click and treat.
From here on out, you'll only pay for those behaviors you've asked for. Don't click and treat for a sit if you didn't ask for it. Feel free to say "good dog," though, as a sitting dog rarely gets in trouble, but we only want to pay (click and treat) for those behaviors we ask for.
If you continue to teach (or re-teach) your dog new behaviors this way, you'll save your dog a lot of frustration and guesswork. Your dog will be able to know exactly which behavior you're looking for and he won't need to run through the entire list of behaviors in order to find the right one.
Believe me – running through everything you know is not only time-consuming, but it's ridiculously frustrating and irritating. By teaching your dog to listen to you instead of running willy-nilly through every behavior in their repertoire, you're making life much simpler for you and for your dog. Happy Training!
Hello Laurie–I really enjoy your blog. I was actually wondering about this very subject today.
Down is my dog’s default behavior–it’s what she does when she’s not sure what else to do. At home I don’t c/t down unless I asked for it. But in the car, where I’ve used a combination of cued incompatible behaviors and clicking snatches of uncued calm behavior to stop my dog from hurling herself at the windows and snarling at everything that moves, I still c/t for offered behaviors like down and eye contact.
I guess my question is, do you change your criteria for what gets clicked as uncued behavior in more distracting circumstances? Am I making it harder for myself to get down and eye contact under stimulus control?