Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shaping Up: A Trick's Story

The Dog needed a new trick.

She likes tricks. She understands them to be the secret of treat dispensing. Hang around long enough, and she will eventually put her moves on you.

Her recent favorite...

And if that fails to produce the desired reaction,  the big guns come out: Pink Belly. (As in, "see my little, pink belly? Isn't it SO CUTE that you want to give me the treat and/or toy that you have???")

"Does this do it for you???"
In the typical dog form, she will run through the routine, turning her tricks, attempting to engage me in her own brand of puppy prostitution.  To spice things up for me, the "John," I decided it was time to add to the arsenal.  Johns like variety.

Having seen the viral picture of the mastiff hugging the cute little baby under one arm, I thought I would try to teach this behavior to the Dog.  Not having a baby I wished to sacrifice to the learning process, I determined that an adorable stuffed animal would be sufficient and less illegal. 

Wiggle Puppy was the brave volunteer. 

"Hi! I am a little scared! You haven't said what it is we will be doing yet...What's the Dog doing here???"
I wasn't entirely sure how to get her to do this, as the maneuver I envisioned for her isn't exactly one she produces naturally.  I thought I could use a jump bar to teach her to hook her paw around something and would be able to shape the process into the final huggingness I wanted.

We started with getting her to just touch the bar, first with both paws, then just one when she became comfortable. The surface was slick, and that actually helped.  She had to make a sort of claw to hang on to it and this gave me the hook shape I wanted after a few click-treats.

Next, I propped the bar on my shoulder at a slant and clicked first just touching with her paw, then only when she grasped it. 
I imagine velociraptors grasped similarly... 
She caught on to that pretty quickly (Oh, clicker, you are MAGIC! Plus the fact that she was working for her dinner... one kibble bit at a time. Best way to teach a new trick!).  I moved the bar off me and leaned it on the couch, which was much lower and at a natural 'hugging height.' I then marked it when she grabbed the bar as before, eventually shaping it to look something like this:

Why is this picture orange?? 
Enter Wiggle Puppy.  I grafted him onto the pole so that she could practice with the stability of the bar, but get used to targeting her paw on Wiggle.

"Um, what is up with the pole dancing stuffed puppy?"
Let's just say she really liked clawing... I mean, hugging... Wiggle Puppy.  Getting her to grab for him was no problem. As illustrated below, she was soon huggin' it up big time with Wiggle Puppy.  Her hugs are a bit... exuberant... so I had to hold him up while she grabbed on, but she would hold him against her other front leg on her own after that. Yay!! Good Dog!

Epilogue: Wiggle Puppy has now entered protective custody after his stint as a volunteer for the Dog.  I will have to find her a more sturdy playmate while we perfect this trick- Wiggle was very floppy. And his stuffing comes out too easily.

I thought maybe a Weeble? They wobble, but they don't fall down.

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