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Teaching Pups To Use a Ramp To Get in a Car Using Least Intrusive Training Methods

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

Yep, that's my car in the cow pasture!

LIMA - Least Intrusive Training methods:

**** Intrusiveness refers to the degree of counter-control, choice and consent, the animal being trained has.

It isn't very often that I feel a training session went perfectly, but I feel that way about this one; I will forgive myself for forgetting to click twice.

I wanted to teach the pups how to use a ramp to get in the car. I did this using my shiny new dog training tools, those found in the LIMA link above. I learned them elsewhere, but the link offers some nice clarity to the acronym. The first video of the session will explain how I did that in this training circumstance.

Would anyone, who has any experience in training LGD pups, think it would be a realistic goal to teach them to run into and out of a car, over and over, in one session? I wouldn't. But the thing is, I offered these pups an opportunity to earn reinforcement, and they took me up on it. They knew they could end the session at any point, and that I would not prevent them from leaving the car. I also think they had no idea we were doing anything serious, as is always my goal when training. This is my secret; I want my training partners to think we are playing a game, one that they always win.

Notice that, as a trainer, I don't even break a sweat. This training is so easy because I am working well within the overall comfort of the dog. It doesn't matter very much if my timing is off, or if I miss an opportunity to mark and reinforce part of this offered behavior because the dogs are having fun with the whole thing.

Why did Yukon keep getting in the car?

He did so because, right in front of your eyes, he learned a reinforcement history with the interior of the car. Being in the car became a target, a secondary reinforcer. Think about how quickly he learned this, made this association. It is because there were no aversive components to our training session. There were no trade-offs for him; only good things happened. Given his high degree of safety, he was free to experiment with what would get him paid.

Why did Nyssa follow my pointed finger?

Again, right before your eyes, you watched me teach this pup to follow a hand target - for the very first time. To do this, I attached a cue to a behavior that was already happening; this is called "capturing." I had clicked and paid her several times for being on the ramp. When I knew she was already committed to walking up the ramp, I put my pointed finger in front of her nose. It looks like she is following my finger right from the start, but what is really true is that my finger happens to be in her way. But after a couple of repetitions, she made the association between my pointed finger and her movement.

The second video is ten minutes long. In only a portion of it am I cueing behavior from Nyssa. Given this, think about how quickly she acquired this behavior. I've heard people say that clicker training takes a lot of time. I beg to differ. I have heard that clicker training does not work with LGDs. I have disproved this common myth over and over with my dogs. But here. You be the judge.

Yukon has been with me for less than two months; Nyssa has been with me for 14 days, and I was off the ranch for four of those days. So, the result of this training has less to do with my earned relationship with these pups than it does with using the correct training language to communicate with them. Beautiful.

Would you like to learn how to train like this?

Stay tuned, because you will see me set training sessions up like this over and over as I go forward with these pups, as well as any other pups, or dogs, that come into my life. And, take a look at any of the blog posts I have written about training, or behavior, since November 2022, which is when I learned what least intrusive training is, beginning with my NEI experience and then on to working with Dr Susan Friedman.

I hope you enjoyed this post!

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