During the first season of ClickerExpo, it seemed to me that a lot of people had questions about behavior chains and back-chaining. I'd like to shed a little light on the subject. A behavior chain is an event in which units of behavior occur in sequences and are linked together by learned cues. Back-chaining, which means teaching those units in reverse order and reinforcing each unit with the cue for the next, is a training technique. We use this technique to take advantage of the intrinsic nature of the event.
There's now a national agility organization and competition for cats. The cats learn to run across obstacles around the house, sometimes for clicks and treats but more often for clicks and chasing a feather lure or some other toy through the course. Cats love it and take well to running new courses in new places. The courses are set up inside an area fenced with special wire net panels that cats can't climb, so there's no risk of contestants going AWOL. The first major competition was won by an eight month old Himalayan kitten (a long-haired breed you'd expect to be a couch potato, but not this one.)
Train two behaviors at once? Teach two cues simultaneously? How? Why? Teaching certain cues in pairs can speed up the learning process, as well as teaching a dog a concept that it can apply to new learning.
In the show ring, it's often that "watch me" attitude which captures the judge and spectators' attention, sending one dog to the front of the line over other excellent dogs. Is that winning attitude and presence something a dog must be born with, or can it be taught? Biologist and behaviorist karen Pryor, whose articles on this topic have appeared in the AKC GAZETTE, not only believes it can be learned, but explains in step-by-step fashion how to easily and quickly capture that almost indefinable essence, in her book, Click to Win, on clicker training for the show ring.
Are you interested in training a herding dog? Wondering where, if, and how the clicker fits in? Stuck with an expert trainer of the old school, who believes in punishment, and lots of it, for your dog and for you? Here's some help! Lary Lindsay has been running the Yahoo group ClickHerd for a year, now. Here's Lary's introduction: