Example Of Release Cue
The release cue should be a word that tells the dog “Go!” For example, if you ask your dog to sit, your dog should stay in that sit until you tell them they can stop sitting. They learn duration over time by understanding that the cue to sit will result in rewards and that the cue to stop sitting will also result in rewards.
We like to see an explosion out of the cued position to the reward (in the case of the video the dog gets to play with a toy) because we want that same explosion of release when in a stopped position in agility.
Shaping allows your dog to learn to try new things. Has your trainer ever said, “Oh look, my dog is doing this so I’ll give him a cookie”? What that means is that the dog has learned to try different stuff resulting in a reward when the hit the right thing.
Shaping a behavior must be done in many steps. First you should define the end result. In the case of the video, the definition is: The dog should stand within the triangle shape.
Once you’ve defined the end behavior, you need to define behaviors that you will reward to get to that end. The behaviors that you reward should result in the dog getting closer and closer to the end behavior. In this case, things the trainer will reward are:
- Looking toward the triangle
- A step toward the triangle
- Sniffing in the direction of the triangle
- Turning the head in the direction of the triangle
One thing that is important is that the trainer constantly ups the criteria so that the dog keeps trying. For example:
- First reward is for looking in the direction of the triangle
- Then wait
- Next reward is a movement in the general direction
- Next a step in that direction
- Next a couple more steps
Never reward the same exact criteria twice. If you find your dog stalls out, try rewarding smaller steps toward your goal
This video is an excellent example of play. The handler here is using two identically motivating toys and teaching the pup to bring the toy back. She also pauses at one point waiting for a sit and then resumes play. Prior to this exercise, this pup wanted to take the toy and run away hoping she would chase it, but quickly realized that the toy the handler had was much more exciting than the toy he had.