Teach your Dog Inside Voice – Capture Dog’s Natural Behavior and Place it on Cue

Big_MacOne of the neat things about using an instant reward marker is how you can capture a natural behavior and then teach your dog to do it on cue.
Here’s a recent email exchange with my client, Elizabeth, who has a 4-5 month old large mix breed dog, Big Mac.

Well, I taught him….Inside voice….and he acts like he is going to bark but doesn’t make a sound……Now he just sits and looks at me and gives me inside voice!!!!  This is fun……Thanks!

OK….I have created a monster!!!!!  This new trick he learned for inside voice…..HE WON’T STOP!!!!  He just sits there an looks at me and keeps doing it…..I keep praising him and I sometimes give him a treat….but ok…what do you do when he has it down right?????

Hi Beth,

I’m glad to hear you are teaching Mac new stuff!!!!

Please tell me, in detail:

How did you teach him? Did you mark the behavior with your instant reward marker when he used the inside voice (IV)?
Did you tell him anything about outside voice?
Did you say anything?

Now- do you ask Mac for inside voice? If so, how?

Your next step is to place the behavior “on cue”, which means he only does it when you ask.

Answer my questions and I’ll tell you how.

How did you teach him? Did you use the “X” when he used the inside voice (IV)? Yes….I caught him doing it once and said X and gave him a treat.  Did that a couple of times  I caught him again said X and inside voice and again gave him a treat….  Then I just said inside voice and he started doing it….Now I don’t say anything and he keeps looking at me doing it….This is where I don’t know what to do…..I don’t want to discourage him

Did you tell him anything about outside voice? No I have not said anything about outside voice

Did you say anything? Yes inside voice

Now- do you ask Mac for inside voice? Yes If so, how? Now I put my index finger to my lips like SHHHH quiet and I say Inside voice……He’s got it down tooooo well.

Your next step is to place the behavior “on cue”, which means he only does it when you ask. Ok….Now how do I do that because right now he is sitting here looking at me doing it over and over and over……I praise him but he’s not looking for praise he wants a goodie!

Hi Beth!

You are almost there. I’m so proud of my new student!

Exactly what do you want Mac to do, and under what conditions do you want the behavior to occur?

Exactly what do you want Mac to “not do” and when?

Exactly what do you want Mac to do, and under what conditions do you want the behavior to occur?  Kinda like your tough guy thing with Bentley….it’s just something cute!  Do it on command……Mac….Show your inside voice!

Exactly what do you want Mac to “not do” and when?  I don’t want him just sitting at my feet doing it over and over again……I feel if I don’t acknowledge when he does he will get discouraged.

Here’s what you do:
Step 1: Reinforce the behavior you want.
Step 2: Punish the behavior you don’t want.

Don’t add touch or his name or talk to him during this exercise.  Follow these instructions as written! 🙂

Step One:
Cue the behavior (shhh signal), X the behavior, give tasty food treat. Don’t talk or pet him. Repeat the same sequence 3 more times for a total of 4 cycles.

Step 2: Say nothing- no cue – no talk – no touch. Wait until he vocalizes. (DATA A:note how long it takes for him to vocalize). Immediately look away, turn your back on him for about 10 seconds. Do not speak or make eye contact during this time out.

Turn back towards him, say “Hi Mac”-
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until DATA A equals 10-15 seconds.
When you do Step 2, he will probably bark louder and be more demanding. Perfect. That means he’s about to give up!
When he quiet for 10-15 seconds in Step 2, praise him! Add touch!!!

Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley – Memphis TN

Private and Group Dog Training – Memphis, Collierville, Germantown TN

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Part 1: Teach your Dog to Walk on Human, Motorized Treadmill

DuchessWith the popularity of Caesar Milan’s TV show, The Dog Whisperer, occasionally a client will ask me to teach their dogs to walk on a treadmill.

Caesar promotes treadmill workouts as a good way to exercise dogs, and they are!

You can buy a non motorized, or motorized treadmill, made for dogs. Or you could use your human motorized treadmill.

Many of us already have a motorized treadmill, but our treadmills don’t have sides to act as guides to keep the dog facing forward.

How do you get a dog to walk on a motorized, human treadmill that does not have solid sides?

If you are reading this, I’m guessing you’ve already tried to “get” the dog walk on the treadmill via a harness, leash, food treats, cetera.

If your dog is new to the treadmill, like Duchess (pictured in this post), you may need a bit more instructions than, “place your dog on the treadmill and turn it on”.

My client already introduced Duchess to the idle treadmill by tossing a few treats on it. He reported that Duchess was comfortable walking onto the treadmill to eat the food. And she was.

The flaw I noticed was; she would step on the treadmill belt with one, two, three, or all four feet, but she wasn’t necessarily “lined up” and facing the front of the treadmill, as she would if it were powered up and moving. And Duchess was cautious to step up onto the treadmill.

So, I formed a plan.

With the treadmill turned off, I decided I would teach Duchess:

  • to walk along side of the handler, on leash
  • approach the equipment from the end, as a person would do
  • to step onto the belt, and continue to walk very slowly (about the speed of the treadmill will be on slow),
  • walk to the front end of the belt and exit from the end

So it began. I attached a short leash and walked around the room with Duchess at my side. She did well. I praised her for turning with me and we did several laps around the room. Duchess was perfect, until my path made it so that she would have to step onto the treadmill to continue walking at my side. She balked, and the treadmill was not even turned on! Yikes!

So I switched gears and decided to shape the behaviors. Shaping is when you reinforce actions that are closer and closer to the final goal. You teach the dog in small steps, each step is closer to your final goal.

My first step was to get her to place one foot onto the treadmill (from the entrance end), then two feet, three, four feet, until she was comfortable stepping onto the treadmill. I spent a few minutes shaping Duchess to step on the treadmill, until she would step up on the treadmill, with all four feet. At the end of the session, Duchess would step on the treadmill, without hesitation. I asked the client to repeat the exercise, in preparation for our next session.

There you have it. You are up to date!

Any good animal training plan is flexible, and constantly adjusted for the animal’s success. I’m not quite sure how I will proceed, or if I adjust my plan. For our next session, I expect that Duchess will very happy to step onto the powered off, treadmill.

Here’s my plan. The treadmill will still be in the off position. I’ll ask her to keep walking, until she reaches the end, where she can step off the treadmill.

Once Duchess is happy with that, I’ll teach her about the motor and the moving belt. Then I’ll ask her to step on it and walk towards the end.

Curious about the outcome. So am I.

I’ll post details about the next session, as soon as I have them.


Happy Training!

Alan J Turner – How’s Bentley – Memphis TN

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