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The Training Game: A New Perspective

Tell me why?

“My dog loves to eat his kibble while training at home. I am so surprised that he will not eat it in the group sessions.”

 “Our dog stays motivated and focused for training when the house is quiet. But as soon as there are distractions, she does not want to eat the kibble.”

 “Why does my puppy focus so well for the trainers during classes? She really seems to enjoy her interactions with them.”

Professional trainers hear comments like these from our dog teams every day. Owners are completely baffled as to why their puppies or dogs refuse to focus on them amid the distractions of daily life. How can this be, they wonder? Their dogs love the dog food at breakfast and dinner, so there should be no need to introduce new treats. These owners truly believe that feeding kibble is reinforcing in any environment.

How to Teach Your Pet to Target

Picture the possibilities

Imagine teaching your dog to put his hind feet—just his hind feet—on a mat. Or, imagine teaching your cat to give a high-five.

How to Keep Your Dog Calm When the Doorbell Rings

Are you Suburban Woman, loving but exasperated owner of Fido and Fifi? Does your home seem like the 5th at Santa Anita every time the doorbell rings? Wouldn't it be wonderful if your dog actually moved away from the door when the doorbell rang rather than crowd you for a position to greet, or "eat", the people on the other side? Wouldn't you love to have a dog that sits, lies down, or even runs to another room when the doorbell rings-instead of all the embarrassing things your dog currently does?

Stay Until Released

Stationary behavior: What are we really looking for?

Recently, I watched a man working on duration of a behavior—his dog's front feet, stationary, on a target. Watching his training session, I did not see anything out of the ordinary. But there was a problem. The trainer said he had achieved 5-7 seconds of duration, yet when the class instructor asked for a demonstration, he could only demonstrate the barest fraction of a second of standing still on the target.

Yes, But Does This Work with Kids? How TAGteach Made a Difference at School and Home

Editor's note:
Karen Pryor introduces Stephanie Tagtow's success story.

I hear this question often: "Yes, but does it work with kids?"

Do you think of clicker training as something that's good for dogs and other animals, but not right for people? The principles of learning are always the same. The technology of training without punishment, and with a marker, works with any organism with a nervous system.

Adapting positive reinforcement training to human problems just requires slightly different methods. For example, you can tell your learner what you will click for. We call these special techniques for humans TAGteaching. We call the marker sound a TAG. We call the criterion being clicked a TAG point. Beyond that, the training is the same: being sensitive to reinforcement choice, breaking behavior down into successful units, creative thinking, and timing.

The outcome? Just what you'd expect. The learner is thrilled. Long-standing problems vanish, to be replaced with good new behaviors. Even the beginning teacher has success, so the teacher is thrilled, too.

The story below is a great example of TAGteaching—see what you think! Is there anything going on in your life that could use a little tagging?