How to Get Behavior: Capturing March 16, 2012

Terrier Head Tilt

Clicker training allows you to capture a behavior, like this terrier's adorable tilted head, so you can put it on cue in the future! (Photo Credit: Mike Weston)

Over the last few days, I have written about shaping and luring here on Spring Forth Dog Blog. My next topic is capturing, which is a pretty simple, straightforward way to get behavior!

How to Capture

Simply put, capturing involves waiting for the dog to do the ENTIRE behavior you are looking for by himself (no prompts from you), then clicking when he does so. Capturing is the best way to get more of those charming little behaviors that your dog does spontaneously, such as tilting his head or licking his lips.

Capturing can also be used to teach a dog to sit or lie down on cue. I do this with some dogs that never offer to lie down in a training session no matter how much luring we try.

To capture a behavior, you must keep treats in your pocket & a clicker handy. Observe your dog closely and be ready to click when he happens to do the behavior! Then give him a treat.

Chances are, the dog will have no idea what earned him the click and treat the first time, but if you stick with it and continue to watch the dog for more examples of behavior, you will notice the dog doing that behavior more often.

I suggest that my students keep a log where they write down when they were able to reward the dog for doing that behavior. On the first and second day, it might only be twice a day, but by the end of a week, they’re capturing it a dozen times a day! Clearly the dog is learning something.

Practice Makes Perfect

Capturing requires a lot of patience as well as good timing from the trainer. Remember: training is a mechanical skill, just like learning to ride a bike or play an instrument. It takes a bit of time to get good at it! Practice your timing and observation skills away from your dog first, before trying to capture a new behavior.

 

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