Karen Pryor Class Cueing Assignment

Outline For Cueing A Behavior

This is my work from an assignment from the Karen Pryor class that I’m taking.  It’s boring because it’s a class assignment.  Trust me, I would never be this pedantic on my own.

Also note that the formatting is horrible because of the change from documents.  I don’t care.  It’s perfect in the submitted layout.  Anyway, this is good information if you can make your way through it.


!. Observe the dog in a normal but controlled setting.

 A.  Choose a setting the dog is comfortable in, possibilities include:

        1. Living room.

        2. Yard (fenced!).

        3. Bedroom.

  B.  Allow the dog to roam freely but safely.

        1. Preferably off leash.

        2. There shouldn’t be one overwhelming stimulus (such as a squirrel to chase).

C.  Take note of naturally-occurring behaviors.

1. Sit.

2. Down.

3. Scratching.

4. Spinning.

5. Knocking the trash can over.

D.  Note how often the behavior occurs.

1.  Look for behaviors that happen with great frequency.

2.  Rarely-occurring behaviors are harder to capture.

II.  Choose A Behavior to Put on Cue.

A. Choose a behavior that will be useful to you in real-world settings.

    1.  Sit.

    2. Down.

    3. Dial 911.

B. Be sure the behavior is appropriate

1. Does it happen with great frequency?

2. Is it something that you want to see more of?

3.  Will it be useful to you?

III.  Capture the Behavior.

A.  Wait for the behavior to occur naturally.

        1.  This can take awhile if your dog is clicker savvy.

        2.  Wait.

        3.  Wait.

B.  When the behavior is executed, Click and Treat (CAT!)

        1. Click at the precise moment the behavior is executed.

        2. Have a momentary (~0.5 sec) pause before moving your treat hand.

        3. TREAT!

C.  Repeat steps A and B until:

        1. The behavior is offered close to 15 times per minute for a three minute session.

        2.  The behavior is associated with expectation (looks at clicker or at you).

3. You appreciate the irony that CAT trains Dogs.

IV.  Name the Behavior

A.  Choose a suitable word for the behavior.

        1. Reasonably short and easy to say

        2. Distinct-not something you say frequently;

3. “Okay,” is not an ideal release word.

B.  Watch for the behavior.

1. When you can reliably predict the behavior will occur, say your chosen word.

    2. When the behavior occurs, CAT!

    3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 above as many as 20 times.

    4.  Keep the rate of reinforcement high! Lower criteria as needed.

V.  Extinguish voluntary offerings.

    A.  Don’t give the name of the behavior for a moment.

        1.  If the behavior is offered without it’s given name, ignore it.

        2.  Reset if necessary-lure the dog out of position-even giving the treat w no click.

        3.  There is no negative consequence to a voluntary offering-just no CAT!

    B.  After a pause, say your chosen word.

        1.  As above, wait until you can predict that the behavior will occur.

        2.   There will likely be a flood of voluntary offerings.

        3.  Ignore voluntary offerings-your dog is trying to do what you want, that’s good!

C.  Make your pause longer over several training sessions.

        1.  Start with a second.

        2.  Gradually increase your pause to several secs or good, expectant eye contact.

VI.  Now Test It!

A. Is that behavior REALLY on Cue?  Let’s find out.

        1. Your dog will wait for you to say your chosen word.

a. S/he knows that there is no reinforcement for doing the behavior early.

b. S/he doesn’t volunteer the behavior before being prompted.

c.  Think about the starter for a race.  Does your dog “Jump the Gun?”

2. Your dog does the behavior promptly after hearing the cue.

a. There should be very little pause before s/he begins the behavior.

b.  It’s good to see eagerness: s/he is showing off that s/he “knows.”

3.  Your dog doesn’t do something else in response to your chosen word.

        a.  If you ask for a down a sit should not be given.

        b. If down is asked for and sit is given, neither behavior is truly “on cue.”

        c.  But don’t be discouraged by b, given above!

    4.  Your dog does not do the behavior if you say another word.

        a. A sit is only given when you cue, “Sit.”

        b.  Also, s/he waits for the cue word to be said.

        c.  False cues to test with: Banana, Green, Giraffe.

        d. Just don’t use anything too close to the cue word.

VII.  Once you have passed all of the aspects of VI, it’s time to take your act on the road!

    A.  Try it in lots of other places throughout the course of your life.

End on a High Note

A New Interpretation

I am in the first week of Summer Shows and am finding that I am woefully unprepared for the rigors of show stresses with three (THREE!) new dogs in the show.

Happily, I am enrolled in The Karen Pryor Academy and am re-examining techniques and theory that I already know.  The difference is that now a phrase will just spontaneously, seemingly randomly, pop up while I’m trying to decide what to do in the heat of very intense training.  While the phrase might be one that I’ve internalized long ago, I see it in a different way.  And this leads to a little refinement in my actions; my actions, the very interface between all the theory I know and what the dog sees.

Case in point, “Always end on a high note.” This phrase, while true, I think ruins tons of dogs.  A trainer gets towards the end of a training session, the dog gets tired, yet the trainer still demands (demands!) the same high standard of compliance-in fact will even raise criteria to end on a really high note (or prove a point).

But that’s old news for me-I know to keep sessions short and fun. But there’s always a refinement.  While training, I often think about the infinite number of numbers that exist between any two numbers as an example of that refinement.  Sometimes I think that fractals are actually a better example, but that’s just how boring training can be.

Anyway, the reason this idea of “End on a high note,” comes up:

Three times today, I got to the very last of a dog’s rationed treats (40 bits, if you’re interested)-and I mean the very last nugget that he or she is going to get and s/he balks; doesn’t do the behavior.  Just sits there, looking at me with a smile.  I wait, nothing.  S/he’s been doing the behavior perfectly well for much of the session, making progress even!

I know from experience that there is nothing further to be learned-at this point the dog has made all the gains s/he will for the session.  I can fight to get that behavior to prove a point….but then that phrase, “Always end on a high note,” pops up.  There was a time that I thought that meant that the dog needed to do the behavior.  Today that phrase pops up and I realize there is no way we’re going to have more fun than what happened just a moment ago.  In fact the dog is still looking at me happily and with more treats I could get him/her back in the game.  And I realize: I MISSED THE END!!!  So the dogs got a little free food (just with NO click) on the way out the door-what’s wrong with that?  They didn’t seem to mind a bit.