Molly’s “Easy Trick”
In Molly’s puppy training, we taught her “target.” For her, “target” means touching her nose to a hard plastic Frizbee used only for this exercise (her play Frizbee is soft and looks different.) It took her a little while to figure this out. In class, she didn’t get it at all, and focused on the instructor instead. So we practiced at home.
The problem was that, while Molly associated hearing a “click” with getting a treat, she didn’t seem to associate the click with what she was doing. I’d click her for looking at the Frizbee and give her a treat, and so she’d pay attention to me, hoping for another, and ignore the Frizbee. Eventually, I started to place the treats on the Frizbee. I also discovered that she was motivated more by attention and praise than by treats alone.
Molly is smart, so she figured out the game very quickly. Within a few minutes, I no longer needed to cheat. I could say “target” and she’d go for the Frizbee. It took us a few sessions for her to figure out that I wanted her to touch it with her nose, but she soon understood. Before long, we started hiding the Frizbee for Molly to find. It became a fun game.
Since she was doing so well, we started looking for ways to build upon “target.” I remembered once seeing a therapy dog in a hospital push a Staples “Easy Button” for the amusement of patients, and decided we’d try that. Molly figured it out in one session.
First, we did some review with targeting the Frizbee. Then, placed the button on top of the Frizbee. When that wasn’t a problem for my pup, I took the Frizbee away, leaving the button. At first, I rewarded her for showing any interest in the button at all, just as I did when first teaching “Target.” Then, I rewarded her for touching it. I rewarded her extra if she managed to actually activate the button, causing it to say, “That was easy.”
Presently, we’re tying to teach her how to activate a touch lamp. She figured it out in about 1 minute, but the problem is that she isn’t always able to activate the sensor and actually turn the light on and off easily.