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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Positive Training - Teaching Shyla to Walk on Ladder Rungs!

Today's post is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop.

I've been teaching Shyla how to target things with each of her paws. The idea is that this teaches her how to consciously use each paw on cue. It helps her with body awareness. and it helps her to learn to follow my cues.

Shyla has known how to do some simple targeting for a long time. It's a great technique for photography. I ask her to put her paws on something and to stay. Then I can take her photo. Alternatively, I often ask her to add another trick with the paw targeting. In this case, she targeted the boulder and then waved.

In the next photo, she took a bow while targeting a boulder with her front paws.

Recently, we took a course in which she learned much more specificity in her targeting. After going through a series of targeting training exercises, she can now target small discs with each front paw and each hind paw. If you look through my Youtube Channel for videos about targeting, you can see the progression that we followed.

I taught her this targeting using shaping. Initially, I put a target on the floor, and I clicked and rewarded her whenever she paid attention to it (as little as looking at it). Then, I waited for her to touch it with a paw to click and treat. After she touched that target with the correct paw 80% of the time that I asked her to, I introduced another target which was for a different paw. We went through the shaping process for each paw until she hit that target with the correct paw 80% of the time. We did that for all four paws.

All of this targeting with her paws had her in the right state of mind to start learning to walk on a ladder. Walking on a ladder is simply a process of targeting each rung with her paws. Shyla is within the first week of learning to walk on a ladder but she's doing great! Check out the short video.

I plan to teach her a more continuous walking style and then eventually tilt the ladder upward a bit. The ladder is currently only 4" off the ground for safety while she's learning.

I love positive training. You'll notice that there's never punishment for messing up. With her history of positive training with me, she knows what the goal of a given exercise is based on what gets her a click and treat. It's so much fun working with a dog who is so attuned with me!


  1. What great practice. Bet that will help you to be more confident in your mountain adventures
    Lily & Edward

  2. Great job, KB and Shyla! We love that your tail is wagging the entire time, Shyla!

  3. That is pretty amazing Shyla, way to go!

  4. Tricky work, Shyla has achieved so much, and as a team you are the tops!!!

  5. That's so awesome! I've been wanting to teach that!

  6. Do you have any tips for dealing with anticipation of commands? No matter what I ask Piper to do, she gets instantly excited and runs through her entire repertoire of commands - and she knows a lot! She just can't seem to take that extra fraction of a second to think first. I feel badly when I can't reward her, because I love the enthusiasm - just not the random string of behaviors!

    1. Shyla used to do exactly that. Then I took a course about "cues" in dog training. One of the parts was called "cue discrimination", where you gave a specific cue and rewarded only that one. Then, after my dog was 80-100% right in responding to that one cue time and time again, I added a second cue and switched between the two cues. I still only rewarded when she did the right behavior for each cue.

      One key is to start with a dog that isn't too excited. My teacher suggested things like timing our sessions for when Shyla wasn't hyped up (e.g., doing it in the evening instead of just before a walk or some other fun event). She suggested using very low value rewards like cheerios to keep Shyla from getting so excited about the treats that she threw her whole repertoire of behaviors at me. Also, she suggested keeping sessions very short (5 min!) so that Shyla couldn't ramp up during a session.

      Does that help? I think that, for me, one of the main issues was that I thought that Shyla's string of behaviors was sort of cute. Later, when I wanted her to stop, I realized that part of the problem was that she didn't truly know the distinctions among our cues so I needed to step back to clarify each one (and never reward her for throwing a string of behaviors at me).

    2. Thanks, KB - I'll have to ponder how to use these tips with Piper! Will report back :)

  7. Go Shyla!! The smile in your first picture is so very precious!!

  8. All of these photos are just so great. Shyla, you are a very smart pup!!!

  9. Wow Shyla! You must have a PhD in learning commands and tricks!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  10. That is so impressive! I'm sure it took a lot of work to get to that point - but it's so rewarding every time they move forward with something! I'll have to keep this in mind for Luke, he's pretty good at targeting so it might be up his alley.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  11. Shyla is so strong - amazing ladder work!
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  12. I love how happy she looks while she is doing it!

    Monty, Harlow, and Ramble

  13. How fun! Shyla's balance is impressive, as is her confidence. We've used a ladder on the ground as cavalettis for rehab. I wonder if we could teach two behaviors (stepping between rungs vs stepping on rungs) on the same equipment. Hmmm - you have us thinking! Yea for positive training! And thanks for your answer about building strong cues. We need that advice too (and definitely before we start working on stepping on ladder rungs!).

  14. That's excellent! I love seeing all of the cool things that you do with Shyla and it looks like she definitely enjoys learning them :)

  15. Oh my goodness! That's so great! Leo puts his front paws on the ladder whenever someone is in the attic, but he won't let his hind paws leave the ground!

  16. Mom is working on targeting with Madison in her puppy agility class right now. We don't do a lot with it usually, but it can be fun to learn to do things with out paws.

  17. This is awesome: I would love to teach Walter to target - we did this with a stool for a few months when I was going to try agility and needed him to sit and stay on the "table". It worked well but we decided to just stick to one sport and we focus on Nosework. What did you use as your "target" in the beginning? I like that you also taught him with all four paws - how did you teach the back paws?

  18. I love that! It's such a fun and practical set of skills to teach... and you get great photos for your efforts! More practically, though, I really regret not teaching Emmett more body awareness when he was younger. Now that he's nearly 14, he struggles mightily with his hind legs, and I do believe a little read-end awareness could've gone a long way to help with his mobility. Your hard work is super inspiring!! Thanks, especially, for the videos. I think I'll start in on this with Cooper this week!


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