The three main techniques for teaching a dog a new behaviour.

Luring

Luring is where you use food to ‘pull’ the dog into the desired position. If teaching a specific behaviour, mark as soon as the dog is in the desired position, and then allow the dog to eat the food. If you’re just manoeuvring your dog (for example, to get him past a bin bag on the street) just release the food without marking.

To lure, you hold a treat, tightly in your fingers, to your dog’s nose, and pull your hand, keeping your dog’s nose attached to your fingers. Think of your pup’s nose as a treat magnet. If you pull away from your dog’s nose, he’ll either stop following or take a shortcut to the food, which isn’t necessarily the way you want him to go.

We use the luring technique for teaching a lot of basic behaviours like ‘sit’ and ‘lie down’.

Capturing

Capturing describes a way to ‘grab’ a behaviour that your dog does spontaneously.

This is a great way to build on calm, relaxed behaviours exhibited by your dog. For instance, mark and treat your dog when he’s gone to his bed of his own accord or is sitting peacefully next to you on the sofa (assuming you’re ok with him being on the sofa). You cannot reward your puppy enough for good behaviour! For calm behaviours, use a marker word rather than a clicker – it’s less likely to excite your dog, and you won’t always have your clicker on you.

You can also use it to encourage your dog to check in with you. Any time he looks at you, reward him. Soon you’ll be his favourite thing in the world, and that’s invaluable!

Shaping

Shaping is generally used for more complex behaviours or ones that your dog might find harder to grasp. You start by breaking up the end result behaviour down into multiple, small steps. For example, you put a hoop down on the floor. You want your dog to sit in it.

To start with, you’d mark and reward your dog just looking at the hoop, then after that has happened a number of times, you hold out on a marker until he takes a step towards the hoop, then you mark and treat that a few times. Then you wait till he takes two steps towards it. Then you wait till he has one paw inside it, then mark and treat that -building up until he’s walked inside, all 4 paws and sat down while looking at you.

Depending on the complexity, it may take a number of short sessions to achieve the final result.

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