Today was my 2nd day having a chance to work with Petey to get him ready for his Rally Trial… now exactly 1 month away.
CARO Rally Novice is actually a pretty simple class with a fairly short list of behaviors. There is one though that has been missing from Petey’s repertoire for a very long time – a stand!
He has a long history of reinforcement for sits and downs (having started with him three years ago with a very “family dog/pet manners” orientation, stand was not a behavior I thought useful to teach), so up until this point, the instant any food/toys/training regalia comes out, he’s frantically offered sits and downs. If I used targeting to get him into a stand, like how Susan Garrett featured this on her Facebook page, the moment I clicked, he’d sink into a sit or down, unlike MANY dogs I’ve seen in class that hold the stand much more naturally.
At ClickerExpo this year, I attended a lecture by horse trainer Alexandra Kurland. She challenged the trainers in the room to teach a single behavior using multiple methods – luring, targeting, shaping, even modelling, and using pressure. I also attended lectures by Kay Lawrence on Luring and Targeting, and in the luring lecture, she emphasized that each teaching approach has pros and cons, and its dependent on the learner, the behavior, and the teacher on which is the most appropriate. In her own words, the quality of the final behavior is not determinable by the method used to teach it, assuming a sufficiently talented trainer.
Back to my elusive Stand with Petey –
In the past, I’ve tried shaping it, but he’s a squirmy little bugger, and has a tendency to tap his toes and wiggle around in between the click then treat.
Hand targeting was challenging as he’d sink into a sit well before I could deliver a treat to his mouth.
So, I just gave up on teaching him Stand. Fortunately, by committing to a Rally trial I forced myself to just do it, so last week I started. Here’s what I did:
- Worked on a raised platform to minimize forward steps. In this case I placed him on a stair landing, and I worked two steps below. A must for short dogs!!!
- I initially lured from a sit to a stand.
- Prior to releasing the lure, I applied downward pressure on his rear-end to engage his opposition reflex to push up, so he’d resist sitting
- When I felt enough upwards pressure, and he had maintained correct position, I released the lure.
- I removed the lure and simply used a hand target to get him up.
- In CARO you are allowed to touch to stabilize the dog in a stand, so all that is left of the downwards pressure is a very light touch on the rear as a cue to hold the stand.
- Finally!!! Enough duration for the CARO Novice Stand.
(At the 0:35 mark you can see what my rudimentary stand looks like now)
A definite pro of luring is you end up getting very clean, precise behaviors. No garbage behaviors have snuck in with Petey’s new stand. The bad rap that luring has is with trainers who don’t have an understanding of training to know when the dog is, in Kay’s words, “going operant” – at that point it’s time to switch to targeting or shaping.
If you haven’t heard of Kay Lawrence before – shame on you – but that’s OK, because I actually only heard about her for the first time last year at my first ClickerExpo. She does some really funky stuff with luring and targeting. I also looked at her YouTube channel and unfortunately the best videos she played at ClickerExpo are not on there – but I did find this – a 9 minute video of a student of hers showing her technique to teaching trotting for the show ring – using a “follow” target stick – that has a measuring cup at the end of it and a treat inside!
On the topic of pressure – I think I’m a few days away from not even having to touch Petey’s rear end to remind him to stay standing… but without that pressure during the early stages I don’t think I would have gotten any stand as quickly as I was able to. A few words about pressure – either body pressure or leash pressure – both are very useful tools. Prior to this, the only pressure work I had ever done was Shirley Chong’s “Give to Pressure” or Grisha Stewart’s “Silky Leash” – applying leash pressure, engaging opposition reflex, and then clicking/treating for the dog giving into lease pressure, counteracting their own opposition reflex, and moving into the direction of the pressure, vs. against it. At ClickerExpo, Michele Pouliot showed video of how guide dogs are trained not to pull on leash/give to pressure, so that a small pull in any direction of a guide dog will trigger them to promptly move into, away from, or walk backwards. The video she showed was amazing and unfortunately does not live on YouTube or anywhere else.
In a nutshell, I’m glad that I was able to dust off luring, and take advantage of body cues/pressure, to produce a serviceable stand for the upcoming trial in a short amount of time.