Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Novice Tricks Class

So recently I was asked to teach a Novice Trick class. I'm really excited, though due to scheduling it might not happen. I made a syllabus anyhow and sent it to my boss. I thought I'd post it here. Basically the idea is to teach or explain how to teach what I call foundation tricks. These are basic behaviors that when mastered can help one achieve more complex tricks. Here's what I have planned:

Plans for a five week trick course consisting of one hour session a week. General break down of each class would involve me first introducing two Foundation Tricks. This is a simple trick which can become more complicated tricks in the future when mastered (list of foundation tricks is outlined below). Introduction and practice of the foundation trick would take up approximately the first 30-45 minutes of class. The last 30-15 minutes would be more free form. 

On the first day of class students would give me a list of one or two tricks they are really interested in teaching their dog and we would help them through getting those tricks down pat during the second half of class. The last day of class after introducing the foundation trick we’ll have a little recital where the class can show off what they’ve learned. The focus of the class is not them mastering all of these tricks in the time allotted, but giving students the tools to teach all or some of them on their own. 

The first day of class will be a little different as it will involve explaining the difference between shaping and luring and why they are both essential tools in teaching tricks. It will also involve explaining the proper use of a clicker and how it’s used in shaping. Teaching how one adds a verbal to tricks as well as how to change the name for a particular trick. As well as emphasizing short training sessions and the importance of doing your homework. Then I will introduce the simplest Foundation Tricks afterwards they’ll let me know which one or two tricks they want to master by the end of the course.

1)      SPIN
How it’s taught: Lure the dog in a circle. Quickly eliminate food lure from hand. Slowly reduce hand movement. Add a verbal. (Can also be free shaped if you have a lot of time on your hands :) )

What this trick becomes: Nothing really, other than a way to teach directionals in agility I guess. But it’s a really easy trick to start off with and most dogs learn it quickly. Also a good way to explain how to use luring effectively.

How it’s taught: Put hand behind back for a few seconds and then introduce it to dog as a novel object. When dog goes to sniff the hand mark with a ‘yes’ or a click. Remember to fed on the extended hand. Introduce a target the same way.

What this trick becomes: A great beginner trick to introduce people to the concept of shaping. It becomes, ring a bell; close a drawer or cabinet (for larger dogs); pick a certain object (Like in the shell game); and it’s the beginning of shaping a dog to hold something in its mouth.

How it’s taught: Hold food in a closed fist. Encourage the dog to get the food. When in frustration he/she paws at the hand in order to get the food mark and reward (this may be a struggle for dogs with stellar it’s your choice). To add target have a dog that is already comfortable with shake. Add a target to your hand and ask for shake; mark and reward for pawing at target. Slowly remove target from your hand. Alternatively; us a sealed Tupperware container filled with food. When dog paws at the container to get the food, mark and reward out of hand.

What this trick becomes: Shake, High Five, Wave, Chorus line Kicks, Pressing a button, Turning on a light (Bigger dogs), Being Embarrassed, Holding a toy in one paw (bigger dogs), Drumming, Playing the piano, Cross Your Paws, perch work, all four feet in a dish

How it’s taught: Put hula hoop on the ground and lure dog trough hoop. Slowly raise hoop. Add a verbal command and eliminate lure.

What this trick becomes: Jump through my legs (little dogs), jump over a baton, Jump through my arms (Which can become jump into my arms), Jump over my outstretched arms (big dogs), Jump over another dog, Jump up in the air on command, Jump through a rolling hoop, Pick a hoop up on the ground and go through it.

5)      ROLL OVER
How it’s taught: Ask the dog to down. Slowly use the food as a lure to turn its head over its shoulder. Reward the head turn several times. Then lure further and reward any shifting of weight. Increase criteria on the shifting of weight until you can get the dog to lie on its side. Usually at this point it goes more quickly into fully rolling over. Some dogs get this very quickly others need to go slow.

What the trick becomes: Play dead, roll yourself in a blanket, break dance

6)      GO TO PLACE
How it’s taught: Place a towel on the floor and wait for the dog to show interest in the towel. When they look at sniff, or step towards the towel mark and reward. After doing this several times wait for the dog to place one foot on the towel. Then increase criteria until all four paws are on the towel. Then increase distance from the towel till the dog can be sent there. And a position (such as a down) is desired and then a cue.  

What the trick becomes: Go to a particular place marked on the ground is something desired by most dogs used in film and television. It is also a great way to gain distance on behaviors. Used to teach a send out in obedience, jump on a stool or pedestal, get into a suitcase.
7)      SIT PRETTY
How it’s taught: Ask dog to sit and then lure into position. Use lure to maintain dogs sitting position. Add duration, remove lure.

What the trick becomes: Stand Tall, Dog Calisthenics, Jump up and Close a Door, Pray (The jump up with both paws part), Hop on Hind Legs, Hug toy to Chest

8)      BACK UP
How it’s taught: Sit on the floor (Or in a chair if you have a larger dog) with your legs stretched into a V. Click and feed the dog very close in toward our belly button. Then wait. Most dogs will take a step backwards. Click and reward the step back. Make sure to reward close into the body once again. Repeat several times until the dog understands what’s being rewarded. Then increase criteria to more steps back. When dog reaches about four or five steps backwards. Stop rewarding closes into the body and begin tossing the treats behind the dog (If large enough try to bowl the treats between the dogs legs. After dog has reached desired distance, add a word. Slowly move to standing position and proof.Also can be taught by using two crates to create a shoot if dog is struggling.

What the trick becomes: Lift your hind foot, Hand Stand, Reverse heeling, Backward figure 8s between legs, Spin backward in a circle, Spin backward in a circle around handler.

How it’s taught: If dog has a natural retrieve add cue and food reward, work on diversifying objects used. Then shorten the distance object needs to be thrown to get desired interest. Move to simply dropping object on the floor, placing object on the floor with hand then handing the dog object. If dog does not have a natural retrieve shape mouthing at a dowel. Entice dog to nose touch object.  Reward this several times then withhold reinforcement. When dog mouths object in frustration or opens mouth at all click and reward. If dog is struggling with dowel, present more enticing object such as a bully stick. Click and reward mouthing with higher value treats.

What this trick becomes: Carry my purse, put away toys, basketball, hold a sign, put one food bowl into another, open the fridge to get a beer, walk another dog, paint, pass a note, put money in a  bank, hold a flag

How it’s taught: Put dog into a down and lure the head down and outstretched so the chin touches the ground. Click and treat (I free shaped this so I will also discuss how to do that).

What this trick becomes: Shake your head yes, the foundations of how to teach shake your head no, the head down portion of say your prayers, and at the end of rolling yourself in a blanket. 

What do you guys think? Sound like a class you'd want to take? :)