There are a variety of ways to teach your dog a new behavior. My go-to strategies typically include:
shaping a new behavior by teaching it one small step at a time
luring with food to get a new behavior jump-started
capturing behaviors that are offered organically
In today's article, I'll be focusing on capturing, which can be a fun and easy way to add new skills to your dog's repertoire. By observing your dog carefully, you're bound to spot a behavior you'd like to isolate and reinforce. With repetition, your dog will eventually learn to offer this purposefully, and then you can attach a cue. Voila! A new skill!
Last week, I was having a loose and silly training session with WildeBean, and she got really excited. I saw her offer several novel behaviors that I hadn't seen from her before, including a partial roll-over, a spin, and a mouth snapping motion. I decided it'd be fun to try to isolate and work on the roll-over and the mouth snap, in separate sessions.
The roll-over is location specific (at the moment), in that she found it fun and safe to do this on the sofa right next to me. I got some treats ready, and began to jazz her up, and before long, she offered the roll-over behavior. I used my verbal marker, "yip!" and then gave her a treat. Subsequent reps came faster as she got into the rhythm of offering it. And as soon as I saw she was likely to offer it again, I began layering in a silly cue just before she emitted the behavior anyway. Here's a video of one of her early training sessions.
The mouth-snap also occurred one day when she was really excited. This happened to be a signature trick from another dog I had years ago, and I wanted WildeBean to learn how to offer this on cue, too. So, when I was ready to train, I positioned her on the ottoman, which is where I'd first seen her offer the behavior. I jazzed her up a bit, and she obliged pretty quickly by offering a little mouth snap. I marked and reinforced right away, and before long, she was happy to offer it repeatedly. Then I began adding a cue for the behavior, which is me making a little mouth-popping sound. You'll hear that in the background as you watch this video.
Each dog is unique in their movements, so watch them carefully to see if any cute behaviors crop up naturally. Some behaviors I've captured and put on cue with my own dogs include: spin, bow, crossed paws, cover your nose, where's your butt?, and show off your ears. Video of the ears and butt tricks can be seen here!
This time of social isolation has been inspiring some fun trick training in my home. It's a low-stress, entertaining way to break up the day, and I'm sure your dog, just like WildeBean, will be happy to participate!
If you'd like coaching for some trick training, or need help with other doggie issues, I'd love to help, and am offering remote video consultations.
Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers remote consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, matchmaking services, and pre- and post-puppy arrival counseling. She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in northern Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.
Please visit www.NorthStarCanines.com/services to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120