Yes, it's me, talking about clicker and how much I love it again. With the help of my family, I was able to shape Julio into two commands in the last three days:
- "Give me a paw"
- "Give me five."
He would put his paw on you before if you petted him long enough, but he wouldn't do it on command. Give me five is not the same as give me a paw. Giving a paw is with the human hand flat. Give me five is with the fingers pointing upward. Shape one, and shaping the other is easier.
I'll say that it's not easy. You've really got to be in tune with your dog. What signals is your dog giving you? What positive shifts are happening? What can you do to take any frustration away?
I discovered that playing with Julio a certain way got him to lift a front paw. I also noticed that he wasn't confident I would be nice while holding the paw, or that he wouldn't lose his balance. So, I held his paw while he was laying in my lap and clicked, and clicked (always treating, of course). And then I played with him and he put his paw in my flat hand. There were many ideas that didn't work, but after a day, he was providing the behavior on cue pretty well, and by today he really had it.
I then held my hand with fingers pointing up. Julio, knowing that the hand was important smacked his paw pads into my hand (perfect high five after a few tries and realizing I wouldn't click for smacking my arm). Then, while clicking, I said "give me five!". Then, I backed the cue up until he understands the verbal and visual cue together. It's not necessary to remove either cue, since they are both necessary for the trick.
Why did I teach Julio a trick? Isn't he a guide dog? Because this is a way for me to learn how to teach him better, and it's cute.
What did I learn? To watch for signs of stress. Watch for signs of positive change. Reinforce him for good things and let the bad stuff extinguish itself. And that varying the reward keeps him interested.
A lot of this can be applied to people. Maybe not always with the clicker, but in positive ways of changing behavior and working in a partnership. Somedays, I wish I could write a book about what my guide dog showed me about social work. Maybe that's another blog entry...