Have You Heard of Pavlov?

Updated: Nov 29, 2019

Pavlov was the scientist who came up with the idea that if you pair a treat with an action you can change the behavior of a dog. He paired the ring of a bell with feeding a dog and got the involuntary behavior of drooling. Therefore you could ring a bell and the dog would start to drool whether there was food around or not.

Several decades of research continued and the art of clicker training was created. A handler can pair the sound of a party clicker with a high value reward such as liver or sirloin and get a dog to do any number of things. It has been successfully used in the training of marine mammals for not only crazy shows at amusement parks but also with marine tactics such as placing bombs on enemy ships under water. It has also been used to get semen samples to artificially inseminate female dolphins for reproduction in captivity. Now that is some serious work that all started with drooling dogs.

So now you are wondering what kinds of things can you get your dog to do? Have you ever seen a dog dance the salsa (check it out on youtube). All that work started with incremental behavior achieved by prompting or shaping a particular behavior and then linking them all together to perform a particular dance. Now granted this can take a lot of time but think of all the great bonding time with your dog and at the end be able to dance the salsa with your dog.

I don't want to get too technical with you but the best way to achieve these behaviors is to do something called back-chaining. You teach the last move first and then incrementally add each behavior up to the first. So if you want to teach your dog to get a beer from the fridge. You teach the dog to deliver the beer to hand. Then bring beer to you and then to hand. Then close fridge door, bring beer to hand. Then take beer from fridge, close door, bring beer to hand. Then open fridge door, take beer, close door, bring beer to hand! Voila. Piece of cake (or beer).

Of course you need to teach each behavior separate, but that is the easy part and that is where the Pavlov technique comes into play. Each behavior needs to be broken down into small increments until you get what you want. For example, to get the dog to put a bottle into your hand. Your first need to get them to pick up the bottle. Then pick up the bottle and move it toward you. Then pick up the bottle and move it toward you and put it in your hand.

Once you have all that worked out you add what is called a cue, such as a word that represents that whole sequence. The command, "Get the Bottle" which indicates all of the behaviors to get the bottle into your hand.

The bigger sequence is then created by reversing your Cues until you have the performance of your dog getting you a beer from the fridge. And that can be a routine you have your dog do every night you come home from work! Enjoy!

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