How Dogs Learn
SHAPING A BEHAVIOR FOR OBEDIENCE
Teaching the SIT TO DOWN for Command Discrimination in Open
One of the best ways to teach a new exercise or behavior to our dogs is to SPLIT the behavior we want to teach into small parts. We first need to think of all the things the dog must be able to do to accomplish the final behavior. In essence we are splitting the targeted behavior in tiny manageable pieces that we help the dog be SUCCESSFUL at.
Once we have listed each of those parts we organize them in the order of what the dog must learn first, then second and so on. We only advance to the second step when the dog is able to successfully accomplish the behavior task we are working on 90% or the time.
Before we begin a few keys to your successful training:
- Choose a high value treat or reward that they will love to work for. I have several types of yummpy treats that I use only for obedience. The newer and more challenging the task the greater the reward value. For example for teaching the new behavior of “mark” I use salmon. For warm up games I use a lower value treat. For heeling that is challenging but we have worked a lot on high value but perhaps not as high as the new task behavior.
- You first must get the dog to want to engage and connect with you.. What can you do to accomplish this. Some ideas are:
- What are you going to use as your “ POSITIVE REWARD MARKER” to let the dog know they are correct: a clicker, or verbal reward such as “yes”?
- How are you going to let your dog know that their behavior was not what you were looking for I like to use a happy, “OPPS, let’s try again” for my negative marker.
- Have a plan and know what you are looking for before you consider the behavior correct so you can mark it and reward. Initially that behavior might not be as perfect or correct as your final vision but realizing the dog is learning, you are for a very short time, happy with this type of behavior offered.
- Keep your training sessions short. Your goal should be to make the task easy for the dog to be successful at; help them to be correct, offer less. Help and when they are correct a few times end the training session with another fun game such as tugging or ball play to end on a happy note.
- Choose a place with low level distractions. A perfect first place to begin is in your house. I like to do as much as possible in the doggie gym where the dogs have a positive, happy expectation of all we do there because it is fun with a high rate of reinforcement.
- AND… What name are you going to give to this targeted behavior? It should be a name you are not using or plan to use for other behaviors.
The GOAL OF EACH TRAINING SESSION SHOULD BE TO HELP THE DOG BE SUCCESSFUL AND HAPPY WORKING WITH YOU AND WANTING TO COME BACK FOR MORE.
EXAMPLE: Shaping the SIT to DOWN behavior in the obedience open COMMAND DISCRIMINATION. I always try to train the dog to move backward and not forward in any position changes. Moving forward often increases as the dog performs the behavior and if the movement is too far the judge will deduct points for not staying in place for the position behavior. The SIT to Down is especially difficult since this is the only time the dog changes from a SIT to DOWN and their tendency is to jump forward when they raise up from the sit to be able to perform the down.
FIRST: THINK OF ALL THE PIECES THAT THE DOG NEEDS TO LEARN AND BUILD ON
- Know how to move backward
- Move backward on command
- Move back to an object
- Move backward to an object and then do a down
- Combine the move backward with a down without hesitation between the two
- Progress from an easier object to move back into to a more difficult and eventually no aid behind the dog
- Stand by the dog, put dog in sit and lure backward into a down
- Stand by dog and put dog into down having him move backward as he is doing the down
- Do this in ring set up
- Do this with added command discrimination positions