From Janine Sisk, Mont Vernon, NH:
I've recently watched Clicker Magic and noticed that Karen mentions fading a lure several times but doesn't really show how it's done. I'm having a bit of trouble with it and wondered if you could help.
I originally taught Mattie to do a down in the "sit and walk front feet out" style. That was pretty slow, so I've been trying to switch him to a fold-back down.
We've gotten to the point where he will do it consistently - as long as the hand with the treat is on or near the floor. If I don't put my hand there he has *no* clue what to do, or will revert back to the old style, with or without the "down" cue. Even if we've just done 10 in a row of the fold-back style, he acts as though we've never done a single one if that hand's not there.
How can I fade this?
This is one of the problems of luring a behavior with food; the lure easily becomes the cue, and gets locked in to the behavior, so to speak. In general, if you are going to succumb to the temptation to lure a behavior with food, I suggest doing no more than three repetitions and then switching to the same hand gesture with no food, and then diminishing the gesture and/or substituting a word. In this case it's too late for that; the gesture has become the cue (or has it? What happens if there is no food in the hand? If the absence of food shoots down the behavior, then you have something to work on, right there).
Anyway, a simple fix is to institute another cue for the fold-back down, either a completely new word (such as 'banana') or a new gesture with the free hand. Say the new word, give the old luring hand gesture, get the behavior, click, treat. Repeat. Say the new word, wait one beat, give the hand gesture, click, treat. On the fourth rep say the new word, pause, lean forward as if to give the gesture, and if he starts to fold back, click and jackpot. Fifth rep, say the new word, lean but don't move your hand, click treat. You should be able to get the foldback on the new word alone, with no body English or hand gesture, pretty quickly. IF you find yourself stuck at any step, go back a step or two just for one or two reps and then crank up the requirements again. Don't just stay where you are and do repetitions at that level or you will build reliance on the old cue back up again.
Once you've gotten a good fast confident fold back on the new cue two or three times, quit and go do something fun—play ball or go outside or something. Come back to it in an hour or a day, review the new cue and the behavior (use a faded hand gesture once, if you have to, but not repeatedly) and then take the behavior to a new room or facing a new direction and reshape there. When you have the new cue solid in several different places, and without hesitation, you should be able to rely on it and the mix up between behaviors should be a thing of the past.