ClickerSolutions Training Articles

Dani Weinberg's
Five Steps to Train a Behavior

Where are you in this process??

Here are general guidelines on how to create a behavior and gain control over the behavior. Dani Weinberg,, created these five guidelines. I have added a little to her five principles, but she gets full credit for this.

Remember, THE DOG decides if you've moved too fast, by its behavior!!

1. First, get the behavior you want.

You can do this through luring, waiting for it naturally, or shaping it from small pieces. I recommend shaping naturally if possible. If you can't get the entire behavior, get a small part of it and work forward from there. If you are going to do this (shaping through successive approximations) remember to have a mental picture of exactly what you want in the end.

2. Then change the picture. (Generalize it.)

For example, if you have been C/T'ing your dog for sitting right in front of you every time, start having him sit in different directions, with you facing different ways etc. Start with this step early on, after two or three C/Ts.

Remember the class mantra: DOGS DON'T GENERALIZE. This is a step that you should be doing from the beginning through the end of getting a behavior to fluency. You won't necessarily completely generalize before going to number 3.

3. Then add a cue. (Name the behavior.)

Don't add the cue to the behavior unless you are willing to bet $50 the dog will perform the behavior with no input from you. This is where the command/cue is added. Start saying the cue/command right before you think the dog is going to give you the behavior. Don't forget once you add this step, you only C/T when the animal does the behavior as a result of the cue/command.

4. Then make the behavior harder.

Here is where we start to require more reps for one treat, only C/T for faster responses, or start extending to greater distances, etc. This is where you go from getting generally what you wanted to specifically what your picture of perfect is.

5. Take it on the road and practice in different locations and with various distractions.

This last step in the learning process is the most important because it is the distractions that normally cause the dog not to respond to the cues. It is also the hardest step because there are so many different distractions. People correct their dog for not listening, but in reality most of the time it's a failure to follow through with this step!! For example, asking your dog to heel or walk on a loose leash in your back yard is not the same as asking your dog to heel in a horse pasture with horses running all around.


Repeat the class mantra with me…..DOGS DON'T GENERALIZE!!

6. Eliminate the clicker.

Slowly start using praise as a reward. The reward is still VERY important, but the clicker is a communication device to teach the dog what we want. Now that they know, we don't need the clicker, just the reward for a good job.

Some people don't like rewarding their dog with food. If that is the case, by now you can gradually change over to praise. If you don't have a problem with it, continue using it variably. Give your dog food for a reward every once in a while and praise, tug, chase, loving etc. all the other times.

Remember, nobody and nothing works for free!!! Dogs are no different, give them something for a job well done and give them nothing for not doing the job.

Good Luck with training,

Doug Johnson
Good Dog Behavioral Training L.L.C.
copyright 1999 Doug Johnson


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