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Monday, April 6, 2015

Teaching Shyla a New Trick

I am taking a day off from telling you about our desert trip to participate in the Positive Training Blog Hop. For this month's Positive Training Blog Hop, we were challenged to teach our dogs a new trick in 10 minutes. I thought that sounded like a fun challenge.

Last Friday, I took out my clicker and treats, and Shyla bounced around me in excitement that we were going to train! I'd decided to try to teach her to cross her front paws as our 10 minute trick.

I planned to teach her to cross her paws by clicking and rewarding her every time she touched my hand with her right paw. She was lying down in front of me as we did this, and my plan was to gradually move my hand so that she had to cross her right paw over her left paw to touch it.

The first several times I showed her my hand, palm up, she pounced on it, touching it with her nose and both paws. I rewarded her for that crazy behavior because she was targeting my hand which was the first step in learning the trick.

After a minute or so, I started only clicking/rewarding her when she touched my hand with her right paw and nothing else. In a couple of minutes she understood this step. We were about 5 minutes into our 10 minute challenge at that point.

Then, when I started gradually positioning my hand so that she had to reach her right paw across her left paw to touch it, she regressed - and got so excited that she was pouncing on my hand with her nose and both paws again. I just waited her out, giving no clicks/rewards until she calmed down enough to touch my hand with just her right paw.

To be honest, we were at the 10 minute mark then. But, I felt that we were so close that I kept going a bit over the time limit. At about the 13 minute mark, she fully crossed her paws to touch my hand, although she held the position only briefly.

Then, by the 15 minute mark, I would tell her to "stay" when her paws became crossed, and I'd slide my hand out from under her paw. And she held that position!!!!!!
During our training, I used almost no words, except the "stay" cue after she'd crossed her paws. Now, I'm starting to add a verbal cue for crossing her paws, which is simply "cross".
And, we're practicing crossing her paws in all sorts of places. Since we're outdoors girls, those places are outside in our forest.

You might think that I'm exaggerating how fast I can teach Shyla something with a clicker and treats. It wasn't always fast. We've been clicker training since I first met Shyla 2.5 years ago so she's become an expert on how to pick out what behavior I'm looking for. It's my job to click at the exact instant when she does the right thing, and it's her job to figure out what that "right thing" was. With practice, dogs become very good at discerning what you want them to do.

This was one of the first tricks I taught her with a clicker - resting her chin on the ground. And, it's one of her very favorite tricks.
So, it's not surprising that she decided to add her own flourish to "cross your paws"...

Yup, she decided to rest her chin on her crossed paws. I congratulated her on her creativity and rewarded her for it. That's a side effect of positive training - a dog has the confidence to make up her own tricks!

After all that thinking, she's now snoozing in the last shaft of afternoon sunlight on our deck. I wonder if she knows how many Labs before her have laid in exactly that same position to enjoy the last warm sun of the day.


  1. Nice! That makes for a very cool and casual look! We use clicker training too. Too many people just don't realize how smart dogs are and how easily trained!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  2. Good Girl, Shyla!! That's awesome and I love that trick! It's one of our favorites!

  3. Patience, tenacity to keep trying, and look at Shyla now, she glows with happiness, and crossed paws, picture perfect.

  4. What a smart girl you have there!!! Her crossed are so sweet but adding her chin is just priceless:)

  5. Shyla and you are an amazing team! She would do anything for you,,,
    I think its plain to see,,, she wants to please you! Just look at how smart she is,,, And her little idea of adding more fun to it by doing some of her other tricks,, is too cute.
    And you have captured some beautiful photos of your girl!

  6. You do such a great job and Shyla is a very smart girl.

    Anne and Sasha

  7. Bravo!! Just love the paws crossed with her head down!!

    Such a smart girl!

  8. What a fun trick! I have been using the clicker with Mabel. She gets excited too when she sees the clicker come out.
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  9. That's awesome! Crossing paws is definitely one of the things I want to teach Donna! I've tried before and failed... but I think I shall have to try again :P

    Warm regards, Donna and JX from

  10. That's really pawesome Shyla! The crossed paws photos are so amazing.

    Piappies Fudgie, Princess, Frappie, Mocha, Sugar, Wai-Max, Wai-Pai & Forgie

  11. We wish you could see our faces, Shyla. They are smiling so broadly they might break☺ Sensational job!

  12. Wow. That's pretty amazing. You're a great team.

  13. I need to work on my own training skills, that's for sure! Piper is a very smart girl, with almost zero impulse control - as soon as she thinks a treat (a snack, a walk, a ride in the car) is on the horizon, she gets so anticipatory and agitated that she will rapidly run through an entire repertoire of tricks and postures, over and over again, with a lot of vocalizing, and even trembling. I "think" my role is to not react to anything except an action that moves us closer to my goal (like Piper sitting quietly so I can put her collar on before we go outside) but I confess it is sometimes really difficult for me to not become tense in response to what seems to be anxiety on her part. Even after all these years, I always seem to be going back to Square One.

  14. Shyla is such a lady! Look how beautiful she is with her paws crossed. Very elegant Shyla!!

    Lily Belle & Muffin

  15. GREAT pictures! This is on my to-do list to teach Buster, so I'll refer back here for the great instructions :)

  16. I love how creative clicker training requires us to be. You used some great steps to get to the behavior you wanted, and it added yet another adorable pose to Shyla's repertoire. I adore that picture of her napping in the sun. Thanks so much for joining the hop!

  17. I have never used a clicker for training. Just verbal cues, and rewarding. Torrey responds quickly to that. Shyla is awesome!!

  18. I love it! Delilah crosses her paws and she looks so regal when she does. I've never thought to train her to do it, but I'm adding it to my list now.

    And your pictures of Shyla are so beautiful, you have a way of really capturing her beauty.

  19. Those crossed paws are so adorable sweet Shyla!

  20. Such a cute trick with the crossed paws! Every time I see one of my dogs crossing their paws it makes me smile, but I've never figured out how to teach it. That photo with Shyla's paws crossed and her head resting on them... I have no words for the cute. :)

  21. Shyla is a beauty and I love these tricks you've taught her...they sure make for great photos! I might like to try this with our Lab mix Luke sometime.

  22. She wins for cutest ever offered trick! Crossed paws with head down. Awwwww!

  23. She is so precious. I'm not surprised that she can learn a trick so quickly. She's smart and you're a great teacher!

  24. When I was new to clicker training, the classes and workshops I went to almost all began with a warning: your dog will get smart, sometimes too smart. Making up their own tricks was just one of the aspects of that warning... incomparable bonding with a super intelligent friend was another.

    Thanks for joining the hop this month. I think it is okay that you went over the time limit. You are so good at reading Shyla's stress signals, I know you knew she was still having fun!

  25. Smart girl! Mr. N likes putting his head down too.


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