Dogs are often much more intelligent than we realize. The more time we devote to training them new skills, the more of their potential we can unlock.
Trick training is a great way to stimulate your dog’s mind. Learning takes a lot of work. Activities don’t have to be physically demanding to tire them out. You can teach your dog any trick using one of these three powerful techniques, or even a combination of two or more.
Luring Or Following A Target
Luring is the easiest and most popular way to teach a new trick. This describes teaching a trick by holding a treat in front of your dog, and having them follow it with their nose until they’re in the correct position.
You may have used luring to teach your dog to “sit” and “lie down.”
Luring your dog into a sit or any other position is preferable to using physical force. A study in the Journal Of Veterinary Behavior compared two ways to train a dog to sit: by using treats and by pulling upwards on the leash while pushing down on the dog’s rear until they sat. Dogs who are pushed into a sit found the experience stressful, and only sat for fear of a touch – rather than eagerness to earn a treat.
With that said, luring is not perfect. Having your dog follow a treat can make it difficult for them to focus on anything other than food. You can teach your dog to follow a non-food target instead. Many trainers use a target stick, but a wooden spoon can work too.
“Shaping” is when you reward your dog as they perform actions that gradually get closer and closer to the desired behavior. Luring can be used in the shaping process, but not always.
You can see shaping in action in this YouTube video, in which service dog trainer Donna Hill demonstrates using shaping to train her dog to flip a light switch. You’ll notice that she uses a clicker to pinpoint the exact moments her dog earns a reward, and she uses it generously – about 45 times in 4 minutes.
It makes sense to use pieces of kibble or very small treats so you can reward your dog rapidly as you train. Training should be fast-paced and easy for your dog. There’s no need to correct your dog during shaping if they are not making progress. Instead, find a way to make it easier for your dog to succeed.
Some trainers use a no reward marker. A no reward marker is a word you’ll use if your dog is offering the wrong behavior. It can keep the dog from repeating the wrong action and getting frustrated. It’s a neutral “nuh-uh” or “try again,” that signals your dog to try something else.
Do As I Do – Social Learning
“Do As I Do” a term coined by European animal behavior researcher Claudia Fugazza, describes the way dogs can learn by imitating humans and other dogs. Fugazza’s discovery has been taking the dog training world by storm. Dogs can be trained to imitate their owners’ actions when given the cue “do it.”
This method is known as Do As I Do/Social Learning Training. Dogs can not only repeat actions that they have previously learned, they can also learn new behaviors for the first time by copying their owners.
Do As I Do (DAID) training has been shown to be even more effective than clicker training when it comes to quickly teaching complex, multi-step behaviors.
The hardest part is teaching your dog to copy you. You’ll need to start with simple behaviors your dog already knows, like sit and lay down. Have your dog “stay” as they watch you perform an action, then encourage your dog to copy you.
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