Trick Training – My Experiment

Good evening my lovelies! That almost sounded sinister didn’t it… Sorry. I’m not comparing you so a small golden ring or anything, that would just be weird.

First off I would like to apologise for the radio silence. We had a crazy amount of orders to get ready for Christmas so I was working 12 hours most days with Christmas Markets in-between! But everything has taken a little calm spell so I’m making the most of it! Apologies for the lack of “explanatory” photos in this one, I couldn’t get anyone to take photos for me! But hopefully you’ll find it an interesting read anyway.

As the title suggests, recently I’ve been performing a bit of an “experiment” with the girls in regards to a training video I watched a little over two months ago on YouTube. I came across the video thanks to one of my lovely readers who commented and mentioned the channel. I’ll link to the original source below for those of you who might like to watch his video’s. Definitely worth a watch if you like training or want to learn more.

So the experiment came from this video, which suggested that rewarding your dog in a certain manner would increase the effectiveness of your training sessions. What this entailed was verbal praise, rewards and physical praise (massage/scratch/petting whatever you want to call it). The type of physical praise here was the main key to my experiments. The video talks about targeting certain areas of the body which are “wired” to the “pleasure centres” of their brain when giving physical praise. These areas included the chin and chest, directly in front of the ears, the shoulders, sides of the body, the base of the tail and the backs of the thighs.

Luna: “Please fuss me mum? If you don’t I’ll poop in your pillow case.”

Luna was easier with physical praise, as she loves a good fuss! So with every training session from here on out I was to use this new “reward system”. Although with Luna having hip dysplasia it was best to avoid her “sensitive” areas, such as the base of her tail and backs of the thighs. Just be sensible about where you fuss if you know your dog has sensitive areas too.  I still use my trusty clicker or marker word of course, so here’s how the rewarding played out:

  1. Ask for trick, trick performed correctly.
  2. Click/Marker word
  3. Reward (toy/treat)
  4. Verbal praise
  5. Physical praise – Luna’s best spots are ears and base of the tail, she can be a bit unsure about under the chin which relates to her rescue background so we avoided here.

Numbers 2-5 were all performed within very fast succession of each other and some simultaneously where possible (e.g. verbal praise with reward and physical praise).

Luna didn’t hesitate to lap up all this extra affection right from the start. Actually I would say at points she got a little over-stimulated and I had to lower my tone and calm the praise down a little to stop her jumping around like a loon and not focussing.

Once I had got her into the swing of this new regime with tricks she already knew we then put it into practice with a new trick. This new trick was quite simple, the command is “Middle” and the behaviour I’m wanting is for her to come and stand between my legs. Luna picked this up in a single 10 minute training session in the house. I was definitely impressed as I proofed it several times later that day, asking for the behaviour when she wasn’t expecting it. Usually it would take 2-3 sessions for Luna to pick up a positional behaviour like this.

Testing it further we moved this outside to a place with few distractions and proofed it there, she performed “Middle” with no problem when starting her from an easy position (level with or behind me). When then asking for it while she was in front of me she became confused so we took it back a step to her being level with me, and lots of the rewarding method at this stage. I then asked for it while she was slightly in front of me, rewarded and took small steps until she could perform when right in front of me.

We then proofed while out walking unexpectedly and she was perfect. This experiment with Luna only took ONE DAY, which is crazy fast for performing a distance behaviour like that in my personal experience.

Aurora: “Stay back, don’t stroke me. You can have cuddles at a time I choose which is most inconvenient to you.”

I then completed the same above experiment with Aurora. Now for her this was harder as she’s not a “fussy” dog. She has never been keen on being stroked, she doesn’t hate it, just doesn’t care much for it. Unlike Luna, cuddles and fuss are on her terms. Luna will take cuddles and fuss anytime, anywhere! I think this showed through with my experiment with Aurora as it was not as effective with her. Within the first training session she made it obvious to me that she didn’t want to work for the physical praise as she actually became disinterested in the session altogether. We tried this over a period of a week, only for a few minutes each time. Each time we got the same response and a serious lack of focus. So I actually abandoned the technique with Aurora. She works much better her usual way.

Eva: “Cuddles? Please? Please cuddle? Cuddles please?”

As it was a very 50/50 result I then decided to try this technique with Eva. Eva is a one year old German Shepherd cross Border Collie rescue who I look after for a few days each week. I already knew Eva loved fuss and cuddles so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get the Aurora response. I performed the same experiment with Eva as with Luna, with similar results. Eva was slightly slower to pick it all up than Luna, but I wasn’t surprised as Luna has been trick training for years, whereas Eva only has for a few months, and she is much younger. However I was surprised at how much faster Eva picked up this new trick to how she has done with other tricks. It took her 3 days of 2 x 5 minute sessions in the house for her to understand where I wanted her to be without luring.

We then tested outside in the garden with the same quick response as in the house. Moving outside to a new but low distraction area however posed a few more problems. It took her longer to respond than in the house, and in the garden for sure. But I would still say faster than she would usually respond to learning a new positional behaviour.

Overall I do rate this method highly. I will continue to use this with Luna and Eva as it definitely sped up the learning process for them, however I think it will be unlikely to be used with Aurora. I will try again with her, as she has some days/weeks where she is feeling more affectionate. I will time her testing of this method to as and when she is enjoying affection more. If we get anywhere with it I’ll be sure to let you know. Otherwise she’s still the crazy toy driven and food driven nut as per usual.

I hope you enjoyed this read and let me know if you test out this method with your dogs, and how you get on with it if you do.
If you’d like to see us try other training techniques to see how we get on, or want to learn how to teach a certain trick, please feel free to drop a comment, DM us on Instagram or send us an email:
Don’t forget to tag your training photos and videos with #colliecomfortstraining

Please remember I am not a qualified dog trainer or behaviourist! Just someone who enjoys training sharing my journey and how I do things.

Here’s the link to the channel of the video as mentioned.

2 thoughts on “Trick Training – My Experiment

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