Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Doggy Discrimination - a tale by Tanner and Tamara

Tanner knows how to do a nose touch to my hand (cue=touch) as well as a paw whack (cue=five). However, when I hold my hand out for either of these cues, it looks relatively the same. How does Tanner know what I want? He learned to wait for the cue!

I wanted Tanner to have excellent stimulus control (I only want him to offer the behavior in the presence of the cue) on these two behaviors for a couple reasons:

  1. It can be annoying for him to constantly paw at me or try to put his nose in my hand every time I hold it out.
  2. Teaching him to wait for the cue also teaches him self control.
  3. It was challenging for me to teach.
  4. It makes him use his brain. (watch for the steam towards the end of the video)
I started putting in sub headings in the pertinent points but then faded them out. A few things to point out; I often click Tanner for not responding to the hand alone, I want him to wait for the cue! When he makes a mistake, I take my hand back, pause a beat, then try again. If he does not respond at all, I take my hand back thus ending the possibility of getting a reward, pause a beat, then try again.

I do not tell him "No" when he does the wrong thing. I don't want to punish him for trying. Why? Because a dog that is not afraid to try things is easier to train. Besides, he "gets it" without the aversives!

Another thing to note is that both of these behaviors were trained pretty fluently at home. We have taken them "on the road" and used them in other situations as well. However, this is the first time I have asked him to discriminate outside the house. We are at our local dog training gym, a place very familiar to him. Although he does not hesitate or make mistakes at home, you can see that this environment is a bit distracting and he has to work a bit harder to concentrate.

Hey, I created a thinking dog! How about that?!


Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

This is brilliant!! I've taught Beryl to do a nose touch and shake hands but when it came to teaching her to wave I came a bit unstuck as she kept wanting to touch my hand with her nose (understandably!) Beryl and I both need to learn to think more, lol. But this has given me some great things to try, thank you for posting:)

houndstooth said...

I love this! I can see where it could transfer to a lot of practical uses, too! It's fun to watch him thinking so hard, too. :)

Tarmar said...

Thanks for the nice comments! We ran into the same problem with Tanner confusing the "five" and "touch". If I tried to ask him to "five up high" I often got a paw and a nose! That was one of the reasons I endeavored to put it on stimulus control, something I don't do often enough!

Anonymous said...

Great training and video!! Such a smart, handsome boy. :) LOVE the training facility!


mandy said...

I am so encouraged by your videos! My husband and I are looking into getting a greyhound,but have been a little reluctant. We've been told they're very difficult to train.I was feeling discouraged and not sure what to think. But after seeing these videos I know that with patients and time I can make it work! I'm looking to read as much as I can on training greyhounds and dogs of the like. Do you have any suggestions?

Tarmar said...

Hi Mandy,

Greyhounds are not hard to train. They have been given that label because they do not respond well to the traditional training methods that were the norm when greyhound rescue started really getting off the ground. Fortunately, the dog world seems to be embracing operant conditioning and more positively based methods.

Greyhounds come with a variety of personalities. You should take your time when looking at dogs and find one with a personality that fits your family. If you want a greyhound that is really trainable, look for one that is food motivated. What part of the country are you in? We might know someone close by that can help you pick out a greyhound.

You might also look at the blogs of the folks that comment on our blog. There are a lot of people out there training their greyhounds to do all sorts of things from tricks to competitive obedience to agility. Most importantly, they are creating great relationships with their greys which makes them great pets. Feel free to ask us questions here or email us at

Let us know how it goes!