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

On it – Increasing Distance

The next goal is to gradually place the platform away from you and at various positions in relation to you.

When your dog is learning to go to the object, in addition to the verbal cues “On it”, you can also use your body position to help your dog assume the correct position.

When you start to introduce the distance, do not forget to mark with a “Click” or a “Yes” when your dog has managed the trick and to start with always go to reward it in position to give value to the position.

If your dog already knows the “On it” trick, this is really the stage you should be concentrating on this week: Increasing the distance and the position of the platform compared to you. Also take your platform in to various environments, for example your garden, so your dog gets really good at generalising the trick.

On it – Generalising to any target object

Once that your dog is consistently placing its front paws on an object when you use the On It command, it is time to start generalising the behaviour so that your dog understands to put its front paws on a variety of objects on command.

In the next video we introduce several different objects to Manouk including some that are not level or stable. The size of the object(s) can also start to be reduced and ultimately individual small objects used for each front paw.

Towards the end of the previous video, you saw Manouk standing upon some Paw Pods. These were used to encourage Manouk to stand on two small independent objects. There is no need to buy these specialised training aids for this trick, you can simply use some small plastic pots that have been turned upside down (some people have used 2 cans of tuna with some anti slip tape!). If you have a small dog, you will need to find two objects that allow your dog to stand comfortably, keeping its front legs straight under its body.

On it – Luring your dog to put its front paws on a target

The objective of this trick is for your dog to place its two front paws on an flat, level platform or step. For this trick are going to mainly use the luring training technique to achieve this.

To start off with, you are going to be working to get your dog to place its two front paws on a flat, level platform or step.

Some dogs can be wary of new objects in their environment so they may need some gentle encouragement to approach and stand on them.

If your dog is very wary of approaching your chosen object, don’t force the object upon it, be patient. Give time to our dog to get familiar with the object

  • Touch and wipe the object with your hands to increase your scent on the object; You scent should have a comforting effect on your dog
  • Place some treats on the floor close to the object,
  • Place some treats on the object itself to encourage your dog to investigation the object.

We demonstrate how to work this trick in the following videos. Once again, we will demonstrate with two different dogs, Mozzie and Phoebe as it is helpful to see how dogs with different characters respond.

In this second video you will notice that Phoebe is a far more fidgety dog than Mozzie in the first video. A tip to help with fidgety dogs is to feed the rewards to them slowly. This will help to instil some calmness when they have their front paws on the object as they must learn to wait in position to get the reward.

The key aspects to progressing with this trick are:

  • Try to stay as calm as you can when working the trick. This will help keep the arousal level of your dog lower.
  • The object that you use does not need to be tall; it is used just to get your dog to have their front paws off the ground. At this stage, the surface area of the object needs to be sufficiently large for the size of dog that you are working with, so it does not struggle to keep its paws upon it.
  • Keep the reward relatively high up so your dog must lift its head and get the idea that putting its paws on the object will help it access the treat.
  • If the reward is low down, there is far a greater probability that your dog will not step on the object.
  • Do not forget to help your dog understand what you are trying to teach him by marking with a Click or a Yes as soon as your dog attempts to put its paws or even just one paw on the object.
  • Give lots of rewards when your dog has both paws on the object to encourage your dog to stay in this position
  • Give the rewards in front of your dog; you do not want your dog to have to keep turning its head towards you to get the rewards; Its head should be aligned with its back.
  • To get your dog to leave the object, simply use your release command and throw a release treat away from the object so your dog follows it. If you do not have a release command, it is time to introduce one as it is the only consistent way your dog can learn that it is not required to perform the trick any longer. Without a release command your dog will start to have to guess when the trick is over and will become inconsistent.  For example, you can use words such as Go, Break, Free, OK etc. Throwing a release treat is not a reward so you do not need to associate it with Yes or a Click. The release treat it is a lure to get your dog off the object/platform and teaches your dog to associate the word with the release behaviour.
  • In the very first stage of the trick, it is OK to throw the release treat in the same direction each time, but as soon as your dog understands the behaviour start to change where you throw the release treat so your dog learns to approach the platform from any direction the next time you do the trick.
  • When your dog is consistently putting its front paws on the object start to introduce the ‘On it‘ command.

On it – Introduction

The first of your Front Paw Targeting Tricks is going to be the ‘On it’.

I call this trick ‘On It’ as you are going to work to teach your dog to place both of its front feet on a target object. In addition to a front paw targeting trick, it is also a very good body awareness trick for dogs.

In the next video we briefly discuss the type of equipment you could use as the target object.

To summarise:

  • You do not need any expensive equipment to work this trick.
  • For safety reason, you need and object that has a non-slip surface, so your dog does not slip off the object and the object does not move
  • To start with, the object should be stable and preferably flat
  • The top of the object does not need to be high off the ground