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Poisoned cues and questions about putting a behavior on cue

941 Views 7 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  3GSD4IPO
Because my dog learned to heel with a choke chain, I'm pretty certain that the "heel" cue elicits a negative emotional response. After her horrible couple weeks of compulsion praise training, I started luring her into a heel off leash and used the same cue when she reached the desired position. It was my newb attempt at creating a cool and positive behavior and erasing the misery of the choke chain. Everything seemed ok in my house when I cued the behavior off leash and she really seemed to handle it well.

I walk her on a harness and still use the cue "heel" and it's a management tool to keep her next to me for her safety. I'm not asking for much in her position and just randomly reinforce when shes in the general position as we go. The behavior isn't proofed and she breaks from it when distracted. I'll try an attention noise or I'll put pressure on the harness if shes stuck sniffing. I'm sure the latter solution probably contributes to stress as well...:redface:

I'm not sure if it's the stress of being restricted from investigating the environment, and or in conjunction with a negative conditioned emotional response to the cue, but she really falls apart. It could also be trigger stacking or that my reinforcement schedule is too arousing. All of these things most likely! Anyway, you can see that I'm dealing with fun stuff here...:(

So I have never really put a behavior on cue the correct way and I'm curious about the timing in adding the cue to the behavior. She offers the heel position at times. I guess this means the behavior lacks stimulus control? So is it possible that I can just properly time a new cue to the behavior as she offers it? What does this timing look like? Does the behavior itself have a negative CER or is it just the cue?

Also, How does one go about putting stimulus control on a behavior. HAHA I know I have asked a lot already, so feel free to ingore this one!

I saw a Sue Sternberg lecture where she advocates a competition heel for reactive dogs in order to manage them out of problematic situations by limiting the dogs view and having them so excited to perform this behavior. I guess I'd like to have this in my arsenal and I'm not sure where to start.

I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually, but I'm hoping someone here can advise and possibly expedite my education.

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A few different thoughts for your various questions:

1. A Heel is a tiring behavior for a dog - It is like asking a 2yo child to march like a soldier and with a blindfold [b/c the dog can't sniff.] It's a very useful behavior when needed for a controlled walk.
2. A loose lease [or Silky Leash ... look up both terms on Google and Youtube] is usually adequate for more noncompetitive, everyday companion dog walking.
3. On the daily walk, you'd like to let her sniff part of the time (so she can 'look' at the scenery and read the news). If she pulls or is distracted too much, then you want to try to anticipate and distract her 'before' she is distracted. For example only - if she looks at something, then you want to stop her before she begins to move in that direction - I'll suggest a method in a moment. If you interrupt her distraction that is much less stress for both of you, than if you have to pull or yank her away from a deep sniff session.
4. Method to Break the Distraction - Turid Rugaas [International Norwegian Trainer] came up with the tongue click method. She like a tongue click rather than a word, b/c it's more neutral, with not one or emotion attached. It is similar to clicker training except it triggers a behavior rather than serving as secondary reinforcement, like a clicker.
5. Prepare 5 - 10 small treats, like 1/2 a cheese cube, or a small piece of boiled chicken or freeze dried liver. Let you dog roam off leash in the house, and click your tongue. If she looks at you, toss her a treat. Repeat for a few minutes, then stop. A few hours later, or the next day, repeat the process. Many dogs learn to attend to the click, by the third training session or faster. [This is similar to charging a clicker.]
6. If possible, reinforce the training off-leash in the backyard. If that isn't practical, take her on a 10 min., uneventful walk where there will be few distractions. Repeat training for 3 - 7 days.
7. When she is reliable to look at you for a treat, take her on an average walk. When she looks at a potential distraction, click your tongue, try to freeze to interrupt her pulling or trying to sniff, and give her a treat when she looks at you.
8. Continue in training mode for about 2 - 3 weeks. Reduce the treat schedule from every click to a variable schedule - every other, every third, and then random treats. The goal is to have her look at you as reliably, as when you ask her to Sit [I hope you don't treat her for every Sit. ;-) ]
9. Again, the important thing is to anticipate a distraction, and click your tongue before she can pull, etc. If you miss a distraction, in the beginning, don't try to click your tongue. Later on, you might try clicking to see if she will 'return' from the distraction, and if she does, praise and treat!
10. Adapt this to your circumstances, let us know if it helped. Be sure to look up loose leash walking and silky leash walking ... Both Kikopup and Zak George have some good Youtube videos about this topic.
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