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Tag: dog bloopers

Trick Training Bloopers

Trick Training Bloopers

Zani cross paws
Zani and I succeeded quickly with the “cross your paws” trick

I decided a while back to teach my dogs to cross their paws as a trick. I followed the instructions on one of Emily Larlham’s excellent videos: Dog Tricks Tutorial: Cross Your Paws. But I didn’t end up making the neat, quick progression shown in the movie when I tried it with my dog Summer.

I think that besides my rather clumsy training, it is just not a very natural behavior for her. I used a target, and when I finally got the behavior (sometimes), it took a long time before she would repeat it consistently. That’s very unlike most other training experiences I’ve had with her. That created a vicious circle, since one of my weaknesses as a trainer is that I am slow to raise criteria. So between the two of us we stayed at interim behaviors way too long.

One of our problems was that she kept creeping forward. Emily’s dogs stay tidily in their down position and daintily move only their paws. (And actually, so did my Zani, to whom I taught this behavior much more quickly). But Summer was perennially creeping forward or hurling herself after her moving paw and heaving sideways.

Another favorite of hers was to correctly cross her paw over, then instantly remove the bottom paw and scoot one body width to the side. I reinforced that one way too much as well. My reasoning: Well, she is crossing her paw!

I’ve said before that I had an epiphany about my dogs’ behaviors being a “map of reinforcement.” These outtakes show that in a microcosm. All these behaviors that Summer covers–and she is really good at variety–have gotten reinforced somewhere and somehow. You will see her target various parts of my body: my hand, foot, and leg. That’s because at some point I decided that if she was using the correct paw and reaching over the other one, it was OK if she targeted me a couple of times instead of the little coaster I was using. BIG mistake on my part. You’ll also see her enthusiastically whack with the wrong foot (that was not recently reinforced, but certainly has been before), and do a lot of general foot movement. You’ll even see her “give up” and put her head down on her paws. But as despondent as that looks, that’s actually an offered behavior as well.

All the outtakes make for an amusing video (except that being targeted with extended nails hurts) but there’s a lesson here. If you don’t raise criteria fast enough and instead reinforce all these approximation behaviors too often, this is the kind of thing you get. I’m working on a post about the Matching Law, but suffice it to say at this point that dwelling on intermediate steps and reinforcing approximate behaviors a lot means those behaviors are going to stick around. It will take that much longer to clean them out of the final behavior.

No Reinforcement?

This video doesn’t show me reinforcing Summer. That’s because I edited together a bunch of “mistakes” that I had finally stopped reinforcing. But don’t worry. My rate of reinforcement was generally very high. And when you think about it, that makes sense. It was high, and directed inappropriately a lot of the time. She wouldn’t be trying all this stuff otherwise.

I have tons of footage of her doing it right and getting food reinforcers. But it made for a more entertaining video when I included only the bloopers.

Training Hint

If you use a target for this behavior, it may be hard to fade. The dog is concentrating on hitting the target; the tactile sensation of crossing the paws (which is really what we want) is overshadowed. My friend Yvette Van Veen of Awesome Dogs suggests using a lightweight target (like a piece of paper) and actually putting it on the dog’s paw (the one that will end up on the bottom). Clever!

What about the rest of you who trained this trick? What method did you use? How did the progression go?

Related Posts

Using a Training Plan to Retrain Summer’s “Target” This is another example of my having reinforced a bunch of approximations and sloppy versions of a behavior. But then I cleaned it up.

Welcome/Bloopers. My very first blog post with my original blooper video.

Copyright Eileen Anderson 2016

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

My other website: Dog Dementia: Help and Support

Welcome!

Welcome!

A woman with her back partially to the camera is sitting on a lawn. There is a wooden fence in the background. Three dogs are lying down nearby, all looking into her eyes.
Eileen and Dogs

The following movie of training bloopers is meant to set the tone of this blog. I am not a professional trainer. I am a passionate, committed amateur with three great dogs.

Link to the blooper movie.

I practice scientifically informed humane training and use Dr. Susan Friedman’s Humane Hierarchy as a guide. I have watched my dogs blossom as I have studied learning theory and dog body language and sought to apply what I have learned. And I’ve actually trained my dogs, though it’s generally easier to cruise the Yahoo groups for the evening. Like others though, I have found that I learn more by training for 10 minutes than I usually do in an hour or two reading arguments about dog training. Who’d have thought it?

I want to share what I have learned and help others take the plunge.

What can I, an amateur who has trained fewer than ten dogs, offer the Internet world? For the past six years I have read voraciously, discussed sometimes fiercely, and immersed myself in all things dog training. But  even though I’m pretty well informed, there is a big disconnect in what I think I know and what I find out I can do. I sometimes choose techniques that look great on paper, then wonder why my dogs aren’t acting like the paper ones. A mistake I make frequently is not to think through the ramifications of a single behavior or problem solving technique I may attempt. Or I choose the newest popular technique when I actually could have done something more obvious and a lot easier.

The mistakes I make may be so specific to my situation that rather than helping anyone, they may just provide a good laugh. That’s OK. But perhaps we can analyze the type of mistake and the larger picture, and I can help save some other dogs and their people some grief. I’m willing to show you what worked and what didn’t, the results of my sometimes bad timing, and discuss why I made the choices I did.

It’s not all about my mistakes, of course. I love the moments when the dog and I suddenly understand each other, or when a dog turns a corner emotionally about something. They are such marvelous creatures and I hope to share the glimpses of their lovely little minds and souls as they share them with me.

My wonderful dogs. RIP Cricket, who passed 5/31/13.

My day to day training focuses on polite pet behaviors, agility, socializing my feral puppy, and surviving in a multi-dog household with the additional challenge of some extremely incompatible dogs.  My particular interests within training are how dogs discriminate and generalize, the uses of classical conditioning for pet dogs, and reading dog body language. Believe me, I have plenty of footage to share along those lines. I practice Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels and will be sharing videos and commentary about our progress through them as well.

Most of all I hope you will write me back. Have you ever learned from someone else’s mistakes? Do you think it is possible? Let’s find out.

Discussions coming soon:

Thanks for reading!

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