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Learning and Waiting for Verbal Cues

Tootsie has been learning new behaviors.  One behavior that we’ve been working on is “chin.” Tootsie targets her chin to the ground while she is in the down position.

I involve Tootsie as an active participant in the learning process.  She is responsible for trying to figure out the desired behavior, and I am responsible for guiding her towards success.

After just a few sessions, she has figured out “chin;” she confidently targets her chin to the floor when we engage in a training interaction.  Now it’s time to teach her to wait for the appropriate verbal cue.

If I had lured the behavior, this task would be easier.  I could say my verbal cue, then immediately follow with my lure.  I would repeat this until Tootsie understood the connection.  But I don’t have a lure for this behavior.

Instead, I do this:

(You may have to turn up your volume to hear everything.)

00:05 – I reinforce for getting in the (down) position that is required to do the behavior

00:10 – I reinforce for offering “chin.”

00:15 – I reinforce for offering “chin.”

00:19 – I reinforce for offering “chin.”

00:23 – Tootsie offers chin, but I do not click.  Instead, I softly say “okay” to release her. When she raises her head, I say “chin.” She does the behavior, I reinforce.

00:30 – Same as 00:23

00:38 – I verbally praise her for keeping her head up. I say “chin.” She does the behavior, I reinforce.

00:44 – Tootsie keeps her head up. I say “chin.” She does the behavior, I reinforce.

00:49 – Tootsie offers chin, but I do not click.  Instead, I softly say “okay” to release her. When she raises her head, I say “chin.” She does the behavior, I reinforce.

1:00 – Tootsie keeps her head up. I say “chin.” She does the behavior, I reinforce.

1:06 – I verbally praise her for keeping her head up. I say “chin.” She does the behavior, I reinforce.

Some notes about this training session:

1. I begin the training session with a few reps of her offering the behavior; I want her to know what behavior we are working on.

2. Tootsie already knows that verbal praise, especially “good,” means that I like what she is doing and to keep doing it.  This encourages her to keep her head upright until she hears the cue.

3. Tootsie already knows that “okay” is a release from the behavior she just offered.

4. Tootsie does not know what “chin” means, and she has never heard it before in a training context.  But, Tootsie has played this game enough with other behaviors to know that when she hears a novel word it is likely to be the green light for the behavior she wants to offer.

5. This is just the start.  After a few sessions of this, I will work on her ability to discriminate “chin” from other verbal cues.  I may do something like ask her to “down” and then ask her to either “chin” or do a well known behavior like “sit.” She will have to really listen to be successful.

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