ClickerSolutions Training Articles

How Do I Raise Criteria?

A question we often see from people new to clicker training is "how do I get my dog to offer behaviors? She's been clicked for doing the stuff she already knows, and I've used the clicker and luring to teach a few new things, but she doesn't OFFER anything."

And you already know the answer to that one... it's what you're doing with Brady now. In order to teach a dog that she can be clicked for something she does on her own, just click her for something... _anything_ ... she does on her own. That's how you've gotten the head turn, right?

Then we come to your current quandry... how to introduce the concept of "raising the criteria". In this instance... and many instances... that means "do what you're doing AND do something more/else." That is, you're not "tightening" an existing behavior, as you described with the hand-touch. You're asking the dog to add a behavior to the existing behavior.

So the question, more specifically, would be "how do I get her to offer something MORE, something ELSE?" The answer? See above <g>.

Click her for doing something... _anything_ ... else. She turns her head two times in a row for no click, then decides to lay down... well, there is MOVEMENT in that laying down, clickable movement of at least a couple of different body parts. If you're quick enough to click the first movement, you might quickly build a behavior chain of "turn head, lift foot"... and lift foot (the front foot on the opposite side of the turned head) is the next increment of behavior in the spin.

I remember once, a couple of years ago, I set myself up with the challenge of free-shaping Bay to roll-over. A fairly complex behavior that involved many movements of many body parts, that also required *me* to understand how she would execute it and balance herself through the roll. It was a lot of fun, but as usual, I fumbled several times... gave her wrong or insufficient information and led her in a wrong direction. And when I'd realized that misled her into doing something that wasn't what I wanted, I'd back off and quit reinforcing those responses. And she'd get aggravated with me and start yammering at me, then finally default to some known behavior... a behavior that really had nothing at all to do with what I was looking for. But I clicked her for it anyway... because she was asking the question"you want me to do something else?" and the answer was "YES, do something else!" And from there she'd generally launch into variable behaviors ala "101 things", and I kept clicking away, and soon she was happy and confident enough to go back to the last heavily reinforced increment of "rollover."

Kim Burrell
copyright 2001 Kim Burrell


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