The Navy Blue Octopus
An Excerpt from Bud Houstons’ Blog, which can be found here:
I’ve been fascinated over the years studying the methods of dog trainers who will assert that the method they use to train a dog is the correct way, the one true way. It is hard to argue with the logic. Their method works for them, and so it must be the method.
So, with that in mind… I’ve stumbled upon the one true way to teach a dog left-and-right directionals. For a couple weeks now I’ve been working with my boy Kory in teaching him to turn left and to turn right.
The key to the methodology is clearly the navy blue octopus toy that I use to train him. It’s a soft toy with a squeaker. To be sure a couple of the legs have already been torn off because it is both a throw toy and a tug toy..
The method started simply with a free-shaping exercise. I’d tell him “left” or “right” and if he offered even to look that direction he’d get an enthusiastic marker from me and I’d toss the toy for him (in that direction). The game evolved so that he would turn in a full circle in the direction I asked for. And, if he chose correctly on the first try I’d give him a game of tug with the navy blue octopus.
We have evolved to a more complex game in which he actually has to turn 3 times in the directions that I ask. If he has to correct one of his guesses, he’ll get kind of a reward… I’ll toss the toy for him. But if he gets all three right the first time, then he gets the tug with the toy. And trust me he really wants the tug beyond all else. At the moment he’s about 80% on the exercise, which means that to a small extent he’s guessing.
By next week the game will go to five turns. And I really want him at more than 90% accurate before I can say that he’s got it.
The key to success, I hope you’ve noted, is the navy blue octopus.