Capturing A Behavior

Capturing a behavior takes the utmost patience but sometimes these behaviors are the most impressive.

Captured behaviors can range from animal vocals all the way to flips. It is something the dog or animal does naturally, that you ( the trainer) reinforces and thus captures.

How it works: lets say you see your dog stretch every morning and when your dog stretches it looks like they are bowing (butt high and both paws stretched forward). So you say “bow” and reinforce your dog. Do this every morning when they stretch. Also try saying “bow” in the morning and reinforcing your dog only when they do the behavior. Eventually after some time and patience your dog will bow and you captured it.

The same works for vocals. If you hear your dog make an interesting noise (meow, whistle , whatever). Start capturing it! Use a hand motion (like a cat paw hand gesture) and pair it with a word. Reinforce your dog every time your dog does it. Eventually you will get it on command.

This works amazingly with exotic animals. When I was training dolphins, they would do some amazing flips and acrobatics naturally. So as trainers it was easier to capture than to train from scratch. Every time the dolphin flipped in the air, we would blow our whistle and reinforce them . Then we would pair it with a hand motion and eventually with patience and perfect timing the dolphin flips on command!

Try it ourself! You will be amazed what you can capture that is unique to your dog.


How to fade behaviors

A lot of people tell me that they don’t want to use treats forever. What people need to understand is that treats are used in the beginning of training. We use the word primary reinforcement to describe treats because they are the first or primary resource that dogs seem to enjoy. Secondary reinforcement examples are toys, touching ( tactile), ice, even hose plays. It is important when you begin training to first use the primary reinforcement (R1) then over time if the behaviors are consistent ( ie the dog does the behavior every time you ask for it) start fading the treats. Using smaller and smaller amounts and substituting touching and praise will move you away from treats. However treats are an important part of the training process and I suggest if you are training a new behavior or trying to correct undesired behavior to use treats initially. Set yourself up for success.