Feet – Fading the rewards

The last step is to start fading the reward. As with previous tricks you have learnt you dog should be able to do the trick without you having a visible toy or food.

If your dog is food focused, start reducing the frequency of the rewards.  You may also want to consider using a different type of food that has a higher value to your dog. Using a tastier treat less often can be used to offset not giving less tastier treats more often. In addition, hide the food pouch or surprise you dog by getting the food from a location it is not expecting.

For dogs that are toy focused, progressively use toys that are smaller, so they become less visible. Reduce to a toy small enough that you can hide it in your hand as, just as with food, your dog needs to learn not to only perform the trick when it sees the toy.

With time, for either food or toy, I start to change the frequency and type of the reward. I might reward once with a piece of food and the next time with just a voice praise or a cuddle. I make the type of reward unpredictable so my dog never knows when the super jackpot reward will be used.

With time, the trick by itself becomes a reward.

Feet – Increasing the Arousal

Remember the DUDE principle?

For each trick we start to develop in your dog the desire to work with you and try the trick, then until your dog understands and is able to perfom the trick you need to work in a calm environment with little distraction.

The next stage is Duration and Accuracy. Duration has already been introduced by adding a Walk to Feet.

Improving the accuracy for the Feet trick can be achieved by increasing the excitement of your dog.  The goal is for your dog to be eager to perform the trick. This will increase the speed of your dog to come in position and, in turn, it will require more self-control to achieve the position. As such your dog will learn to become more accurate with its positioning.

The other positive aspect of playing with your dog arousal levels is to get a sharper / faster reaction to come in position as soon as your dog hears the verbal cue.

Note: with Manouk we increased his arousal level with a toy, but for a food orientated dogs, this can be done by using a higher value food.

If your dog is too excited and can not perform the trick, you need to learn to only modulate its arousal to a level it can work. My advise is to revert back to a low arousal situation first and slowly build the arousal levels.

This is a second video illustrating Manouk try to control his impulse whilst working when more aroused.

Feet

Up to now, you have taught your dog independent tricks, but tricks start to look amazing when you can start chaining them together. Over the next 2 weeks you are going to start to do just that.

Chaining simply means following one trick with another one in a chain. Chaining is the secret to teaching complex tricks: you split the trick in smaller easier tricks and then you combine them together.

To start with you will need to reward for each independent tricks in the chain, but will progress to only rewarding the final trick.

Your first chained trick is going to be “Feet” which combines both the “On it” and “Middle” tricks.

To start get started

  • Turn your feet so that your toes are pointing inwards.
  • Use your Middle command to get your dog to come between your legs
  • As soon as your dog is in the middle position use your On It command to ask your dog to put its front paws on your feet.

You may find that when you ask your dog for the “On It” that it may only put one of its paws onto one of your feet. The quick tip for enticing your dog to place a paw on both of your feet is for you to subtly shift where you are providing the reward whilst still asking your dog for the “On It”. Try to give the reward high enough so your dog has to move his second paw off the ground to get the treat. If, for example, your dog has not placed a paw on your left foot, slightly lean and offer the reward to your left side. As your dog’s head moves towards the left for the reward its more likely to lift and place its left paw.

As your dog begins to understand that it needs to place its front paws on top of your feet, you can start decreasing the angle that you are turning your feet. Ultimately your feet should be pointing forwards with your dog still placing its paws.

When your dog clearly understands the required behaviour, start to introduce a word to associate to this. This word will become the single command that will replace both the Middle and On It commands

To introduce the word, ask your dog for the “On It” and as soon as it has both paws on your feet give the new word and reward.

The final step that you will add to complete the trick is for you to walk forwards whilst your dog has its front paws on top of your feet. I tend to have a verbal cue, such as “walk” to make sure my dog is getting ready to walk .

Emily demonstrates all these steps in the following video with Manouk.

Elephant

It’s time to make your dog’s back paws part to the trick too! Dogs often struggle with tricks involving their back paws therefore we decided to introduce those tricks later in the school and we are going to develop the skills gradually, starting off with one of the easy tricks.

The Elephant trick is so called because it is a trick that was often performed by Elephants in circuses. It involves your dog standing on and object with its front paws (the “On it” trick) and then moving its back paws laterally (in abduction and adduction) to circle around the object with its back end.

It is an extension of the “On it” trick but it trains your dog to become proficient to use its hind-legs appropriately to turn around the perch. You will find out that some dogs can turn better one way than another.

To encourage your dog to move its back paws whilst its front paws are on an object:

  • position yourself next to your dog’s side
  • With a treat in your hand, to lure your dog’s head to the side than you want it to start turning. So, to turn clockwise around the object turn your dog’s head to the right.
  • With your leg that is directly next to your dog’s side very gently touch your dog’s side. You are not trying to force your dog to turn by pushing it with your leg but just encouraging it to move its hind legs.
  • As soon as your dog makes a sideways step with its hind legs use your Yes marker and reward. Some dogs really struggle so just one step should be enough to mark and reward, don’t be too hasty!
  • Gradually build the number of steps your dog takes before giving the reward. When your dog takes a step you also need to take a step to follow their movement.
  • Remember work in both directions. Like the Roll Over Trick, you will probably find your dog is much better turning in one direction than the other.

The following video is of Mozzie’s first attempt at the Elephant trick

Tricks for Treats with good manners

As your dog can now use its front paws to push on a buzzer, you can start having some fun by introducing a second buzzer so your dog uses one specific buzzer for the “Please” and the other one for “Thank you” when requesting a treat!

Quiz time!

It is now time to introduce your dog to a Quiz Buzzer!

We are going to transfer your dogs behaviour from putting a front paw on a target, to putting a paw on a buzzer that will produce a sound. As introduced in the Getting prepared for your first day topic, I like using battery operated quiz buzzers for this. The buzzers are relatively cheap for a set of four and you end up with four distinct sounds to choose from. It is possible to use a metal desk bell for this trick, but this is slightly harder to use as your dog has to be very accurate to always hit it exactly on the top. I would also shy away from using the desk bell as it can have some hard edges which may injure your dog if they press down hard on it.

Before we start asking our dog to start working with the Buzzer, the first step is to get them used to the sound. The Trick is meant to be fun, so we do not want to upset or scare your dog!

  • Let your dog get used to the sound made by the buzzer by activating it in your hands whilst your dog is around you.
  • When it is time to start placing the buzzer on the floor, try to place it on a non-slip surface or, if possible, use some blu-tack to fasten it to the floor. This is to help your dog press the buzzer cleanly without it moving when they press it. It can also help prevent some dogs pawing at the buzzer if they become excited.
  • As in the previous topic, sit in front of your dog and place the buzzer on the floor between you and your dog.
  • Using your “Please” and “Thank You” commands to tell your dog which paw to use; your dog should now push on the buzzer. Reward as soon as it does.
  • When your dog is consistently placing a paw on the buzzer on command, start working the trick whilst you are standing up. Start to introduce some distance and send your dog to the buzzer. You will use body cues help indicate where the buzzer is to lure your dog towards it.
  • When working at distance it is important to reward quickly when your dog correctly presses the buzzer. If not, it is possible that your dog will become unsure that it has done the trick correctly and will start swapping paws and repeatedly pressing the buzzer.

If your dog becomes over excited performing this trick, it will start to become less accurate. Both your dog and you need to remain calm. Get your dog to sit and wait or get its attention before asking it to perform the trick.

When you can keep your dog calm this will allow you to start moving relative to your dog’s position and the buzzer. From many positions you will not be able to use body cues to help your dog to the buzzer which increases the difficultly level as we describe in the next video.

Pawing a Target

This week you will be taking the Front Paw Targeting tricks a stage further by teaching your dog to target individual smaller targets with their paws. The overall aim is to have your dog put a single paw on a specific object on command.

You will need a object to use as a target that has a bit of height to it. It needs to be small enough in diameter to avoid your dog trying to put both of its front paws on it. The screw top off an old coffee jar would be ideal.

The first step is to encourage your dog to put either of its front paws on the object. You are going to do this primarily using the verbal cues you previously taught to your dog to give each of its front paws.

  • Sit on the floor facing your dog; your dog should also be sitting.
  • Place the target on the floor close to your dog’s front paws. As a rough guide the Target should be vertically below your dog’s nose. There should be a slightly larger gap between yourself and the Target to encourage your dog to reach forwards when it gives a paw.
  • Your dog may well start investigating the object with its nose and think that you are working a push trick. To avoid this, show your dog that you have a treat in your hand and raise this up to entice your dog to lift its head from the target.
  • Use the “Please” and “Thank You” commands that you taught your dog in the Give a Paw Trick to encourage it to lift one of its paws off the floor. Make sure your dog is lifting the correct paw in response to the command you use!
  • Although you are primarily using the verbal commands you can use slight body movement cues to help your dog, but these must be subtle.
  • As your dog lowers it paw, if it touches the object click or use your Yes maker and reward. Only reward when your dog touches the object, do not reward if your dog offered the correct paw and then placed it back in the floor without touching the target.
  • Remain calm with your dog. Have your dog sit between each attempt. This will avoid you having the situation where your dog starts becoming over excited and quickly offering random paws as it tries to figure out what you are asking it to do.

In the following video, Emily & Leo demonstrate how to start putting a paw on the target. Notice how Emily keeps Leo calm by making him sit and wait between asking him to give a paw with her “Please” & “Thank You” cues. Also, note how Emily uses very subtle body cues when required to help Leo.

Give a Paw: “Please” And “Thank You”

In the previous stage of Give a Paw we have been working with a generic word “Paw”.  Currently your dog is using your body language as an indicator of which paw to give; your dog should be giving the paw facing the fist you are presenting.

Dogs are very clever and have a very good spatial awareness, they have a very good understanding of their right and left

When your dog consistently gives either of its front paws with your body cues, your next challenge is to teach a different word for each paw. In the videos, Emily is using “Please” for the left paw and “Thank you” for the right one.

The steps to give individual commands are similar to those used to introduce the “Paw” command, but you now want your dog to associate a different word for each paw.

  • Present a fist to your dog
  • When you dog is starting to move its paw toward your fist, give the word you want to use for the paw its if offering you.
  • Do multiple attempts with the same paw before switching to the next one.

You need to be consistent with your verbal cues. Once you have chosen the word you will use for each paw, you must make sure you give the correct verbal cue! This can be challenging!

Tips:

  • At the stage where your dog does not understand the new words and is only learning to associate the words with the specific paw, wait before your dog is committing to offer a paw before giving the verbal cue. This way if your dog is not offering the paw in response to your body cue, you can still use the verbal cue associated with the paw he is offering.  You will need to concentrate!
  • For example, if I present my right fist and my dog starts to offer his right paw whilst to my body cue when I am expecting the left one, I will give the “Thank you” cue. My objective is not for my dog to answer to my body cue, but to associate the word to his movement.

One common problem that you may come up against is your dog starting to frantically switch paws rather than listening to the command. This is usually because during training there has not been a period of calmness with your dog simply sitting with all paws on the ground between switching between practicing the “Please” and “Thank you”

You need your dog to concentrate on what you are asking with both your body cue and your verbal command. Ensure that you include a period of calmness in between working on each paw so that your dog can settle. Do not let you dog offer a paw before you even present a fist. Therefore in the video we are adding some Sit, Stand or Wait exercises in between the “Please” and “Thank You”.

A tip to help get the calmness is to offer a greater reward when your dog is doing the sit, stand or wait exercises than for the Please and Thank you so you are really giving value to the stillness.

This stage is key to making sure your dog understands the verbal cue for each paw but also learns to keep still until you give the cue.

On It: Distance, Stillness, Duration

In the following video, Emily and Phoebe give a quick recap of the “On it” you have worked so far.

If your dog understands the “ON IT” trick, it is time to increase distance and duration. Only work at increasing one parameter at the time.

Phoebe is a typical fidgety spaniel, so this video is a good example of how to handle and calm such dogs. It provides pointers for making the behaviour more consistent, both is terms of distance and duration.

Make sure the surface of your platform and the surrounding floor is non slippery. The flooring used in all the videos is a non slip-type of vinyl it is not wood, however I still felt it was worth using a yoga mat to reduce the possibility of Phoebe Slipping.

Do not forget to use a release marker to indicate to your dog that the trick is finished and that they can move away from the platform

Distance work:

  • Use a luring treat when you give your release command and throw it in various directions so that your dog learns to access the platform from different angles in relation to you and the platform
  • Remember to use the “On it” command send your dog to the platform (so long as you are sure your dog understand the meaning of the trick)

Accuracy

  • Work on your Accuracy; make sure you only mark (click or Yes) and reward in position, be very patient
  • The timing with your Click or the Yes marker is especially important with excitable dogs like Phoebe, you can see how she offers the trick but then starts to fidget. The criteria that you want to reward is two paws on the platform.
  • To start with your Click or Yes Marker needs to be given immediately as your dog places its front paws on the step/block.  Reward generously with multiple treats, but only one at the time, whilst your dog is in position. Do not test your dog, just make sure that it keeps both paws on the object. Only then you can start focusing on adding the duration

Duration

Do not start to increase the duration before your dog understands clearly that the trick is to keep its two paws on the object.

If you start developing duration too early, your dog may start to fidget again or offer other behaviours to try to get the treats. For example, watch Phoebe put all four paws on the block.

Our advice for building duration is:

  1. Work as you did to improve the accuracy with multiple treats whilst in position, but gradually start to give the treats slower and slower
  2. When your dog manages to keep the position without offering any other behaviour in between the treats then start to delay your reward marker cue. However, make sure you still capture a moment of stillness

Give a Paw – Wave

So far, to ensure that your dog is learning the command for giving a paw you have been providing a reward as soon as it gives you the correct paw. This has been to ensure that your dog understands the command.

Now, your next challenge is to teach your dog to keep its paw up. Ultimately what you want to achieve by doing this is for your dog to hold its paw up of the floor just as if it was waving at you.

To achieve this, start by adding :

  1. Making it more challenging for your dog to reach your fist or your forearm, so it has to put a lot of effort to up his paw. You can place your fist higher up like a “high five” or further away by leaning slightly away from your dog when it tries to put the paw on the fist
  2. Gradually add and then lengthen a delay between your dog offering its paw and being given the reward for doing so.
  3. Another tip is to help teach this is to stand rather than sit in front of your dog so that your hand or forearm is out of reach

We started to work on this in the previous module with Mozzie though we will show you the relevant part of the video again here.

To be able to move to this step you will need to have successfully faded most of your body cues as you were working on in the previous topic, however you can “cheat” a little bit by balancing your body as shown with Emily on the video.

As you can see, this stage it is still a work in progress for both Mozzie and Phoebe, as it will be for your own dog. Keep on practicing the Wave as we will be using it later on in the school within another trick