Topic: Using capturing to build dog and animal behaviors.
Nan Arthur is the author of Chill Out Fido! How To Calm Your Dog, a KPA faculty member and the owner of Beacon of Hope Dog Behavior and Training Services in San Diego, CA. Nan has 23 years of experience and works with dog professionals, shelter employees and volunteers, and pet dog owners and has developed volunteer training programs and lectures for many local shelters, ensuring that the dogs not only receive environmental enrichment, but positive training to help improve the adoptability of the dogs. Nan holds memberships in PPG, and APDT, IAABC, KPACTP, studies Improvisational techniques and also a certified DogSafe First Aid Instructor and an instructor with DogTec’s Dog Walking Academy.
Cassie Pestana is a certified professional dog trainer through the Karen Pryor Academy and Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Prior to working with dogs, Cassie had the opportunity to research the behavior of a variety of species, including rats, African Wild Dogs, elephants and vervet monkeys, while completing her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Brown University. After graduating, Cassie decided to pursue dog training as a career and worked with a several different types of trainers and methods. Her heart naturally settled on a force-free practice of primarily positive reinforcement, which aligned perfectly with her knowledge of learning theory and animal behavior. In 2017 Cassie opened Cassie’s Dog Training in Orange County, CA with the goal of enhancing communication and understanding between owners and their dogs. Since then she has worked with hundreds of dogs and puppies both in the home and in group class settings. It is her goal to one day open her own training facility in order to further spread the knowledge of force-free training methods.
Intro: You’re listening to how do you train that the place for advice and encouragement for people interested in learning more about positive reinforcement training. You can interact with us on our Facebook page, How Do You Train That?, leave some questions and comments, and we will put those topics into our feature podcasts. So put your feet up and let’s get started.
Kat: And we’ve got Nan and Cassie. So today we’re talking about using capturing. And I think we’re gonna need to define what capturing is. So, Nan, can you maybe give me a definition of what capturing is?
Nan: Sure. I think that the easiest way to explain it is to be able to capture, in a moment in time, with some sort of a marker. We typically use clippers that says that the dog has done a behavior we like in. That’s usually when we’re capturing innate behaviors dogs do anyway. So like sit and down and looking up at you. Those are really easy things to capture and then pretty soon once you’ve done it enough times with reps and the reinforcement history gets stronger than you add accu- to it like sit or down and the dog will be able to perform in a very short period of time in terms of that behavior with the cue that you’ve added to it has that. How’s that?
Kat: That’s great. Cassie? Would you like to add anything to that definition?
Cassie: No. I think that that definition was great. It’s just marking that behavior the second happens behaviors they already do that we don’t really think to reinforce, but there’s not much kick-starting it. There’s not a cue when you’re first starting out.
Kat: Right. So the the behavior is basically fully formed as it will eventually be. We’re not shaping. We’re not building. It’s just the dog does this thing. And we’re capturing this thing is that. Is that right?
Kat: So Cassie what would be a behavior that you would use capturing for?
Cassie: My favorite behavior to capture is a sit and most people think that their dog already has a sit on cue, and they’re very reluctant to go back to capturing it. But I think it’s a really great way to teach a dog to say please. So instead of always queuing your dog to sit. If you can put them in a situation in may come up with the sit on their own, and you can capture that moment, you’re teaching your dog how to say, please for whatever it is they want.
Kat: Cool. And Nan, what do he use capturing for only?
Nan: Typically, I do it for a couple of things. But the the big one I use it for is down. That’s such a contrived behavior. A lot of times with people trying so many different things, you know, trying to lure them under their legs or under a table. It just so easy just to wait till they do it in market in reinforce it. So down is probably my go-to behavior for capturing.
Kat: And I know I capture a ton of stuff like my Australian shepherd would just get up on her back legs in wave. And so I kept that I’ve actually captured a lip lick. It’s fun. I think I’m outside of the general sit and down to really look at weird things that your dog does, like role on their back and raise their arm in the air that can be captured. Right. And then you get to actually um view, your dogs creativity. By just the things that they’re doing naturally.
So there’s something really weird that you’ve captured that’s kind of cool?
Cassie: In my little mile little Chihuahua terrier, I captured a sit pretty she would just do it. Anytime. I got treats out or something exciting would happen or some she wanted something from me. She would hop up on her back legs with her back straight in her front. Paws up didn’t have to build the core strength or anything. She just did it on her own captured that. Got it on cue.
Nan: That’s cool.
Kat: So, Nan, anything weird?
Nan: Yeah. Actually, a couple of things that I that come to mind that are not only kind of weird. But they’re very useful. Is the the licking the lips that’s one of them. People wonder why you would ever teach that, um working with the end of spectrum dogs that I work with we used the innate behaviors such as that tail wags, licking, ear flicks, you know, those sorts of things to capture those to help the dog’s brain expand a little more. So that they’re not thinking so myopically about what their triggers are. But here’s some different things that their brain has to go on to grab. And and I find those things very very useful for dogs that have very limited repertoires that have say reactive kind of behaviors and things like that. That those help build their confidence it helps. It’s fun. You know, so those are the kind of things it would be the weird ones. Outside of the norm.
Kat: Yeah. So are in. You know, so using capturing the same sort of rules, and we’ll get into generalization, apply. But would you ever do capturing in a new environment as sort of a way to redirect reactivity or create confidence? Or we doing the captured behaviors in the home in a nice safe environment first and then taking them out in the world.
Nan: Well, I think that it’s a it’s a depend sort of answer in that would be that. If if there’s an innate behavior that the dog is offering out in the world because they’re worried or anxious or or reactive than than you, certainly as long as they’re eating, could work on something like sniffing which could be easily captured input on cue ultimately in in. It’s out there in the environment. But generally, I’m going to do most of my train hint in a in a very organized low distraction sort of environment in. That’s probably true with most of us trainers that that work in positive reinforcement that we start quietly in build.
Kat: Right. And Cassie? Do do you do anything again sort of weird out of the ordinary, you know, rewarding snipping or trying to capture sniffing or anything like that out in the world.
Cassie: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s it’s important to teach dog that those things they wanna do they can do and that we’ll reinforce that behavior in it’ll become something that it becomes a part of the training and not just a distraction in general or trigger or something like that. I can’t think of something specific.
Kat: And for me,I just moved to a new house from a very busy city street to a very quiet suburban neighborhood where my dogs are now quite noise sensitive because there’s not the cacophony of the neighborhood noises covering that current noises, and we also moved into an area where there are dogs on the other side of the fence in. So my my ten year old, thirteen year old, and fifteen year old dogs have never lived with dogs on the other side of the fence. And pottying has decreased because they’re stressed going out into the yard. And they get distracted by the dogs barking at them. So I’ve actually started capturing any urination or defecation any time of day. Whether there’s a dog on the other side or not just because I really want them to feel confident enough and comfortable enough to go potty again, and I’ve seen that working quite well, just arbitrarily. Oh my God, you peed, here’s a cookie. You know, and they never had to do that before. And I didn’t necessarily have to have a potty cue for them. So we were sort of starting from scratch. So that’s my sort of capturing in the moment out in the weird. Yes, there’s a dog barking on the side of the fence. I can’t control that for you. And I really need you to pee.
Cassie: That’s the duty of capturing is you can always go back to that. First step when the situation changes though. Yes, we always ideally start in the quiet bedroom situation and then move to those more distracting environments, and when you get there all you have to do is wait for your animal to do that behavior and go back to reinforcing it even though something like potty. You think your dogs already know? But because the situation changed you have to build that confidence when they understand that language. It’s it makes it so easy.
Kat: Awesome. So let’s let’s get down to the nitty gritty ’cause I know that what I see with people using capturing is the dog gets distracted from the task or isn’t body aware or environmentally aware to understand what exactly offered got the cookie. So, you know, you’ve captured a sit or down what you something rather simple. And you’ve done, “yes” or a click and given them a treat, and suddenly we’ve got begging or suddenly we’ve got a dog offering any other behavior other than what we tried to capture. So Nan, can you take me through how you might try and solve that kind of problem?
Nan: Sure. I would first of all put my my my marker retreats away for a moment to the step back from it. And think why am I getting this? Why am I getting you know, a barking or begging or unwanted behavior? I always take that back to my mistake. I must have marked something that. that got the dog to think this is what I need to do in built even sometimes a little mini chain where they sat in the bark or they sat in the jump. We see that a lot. They you know, they walk on leash for a moment in then they pull and come back and get a cookie. So there’s some often misguided reinforcement happening or misguided marking clicking the behavior or using a verbal marker. Where the dogs thinks that they’re doing the right thing. So to avoid frustration. I would put stuff away for a moment. And then really try to analyze it, might video it. I’m I really encourage my clients to video their sessions, so that if something does go awry, we can look at it together and go, oh, here’s what we might have changed. What would might need to change to repair this in? I think that you know, timing is everything that’s important in. I think that that working in a less frustrating environment might be helpful depending on where you’re at. Activity in the household. They get distracted by other things and on and on and on. So, you know, going back to that working in that quiet environment to begin with, building the behavior as needed in going forward and looking to see if there’s any fallout in or breakthrough behaviors that are coming through because of ill timing or reinforcement history and things like that. Oftentimes, I think our clients think they have a behavior trained and don’t right. Just like you were suggesting that that, you know, the dog is sitting but not making that connection that’s often because their connect they’re they’re clicking a stationary behavior rather than the movement to get to the stationary behaviors. So that might just be some adjustments in that. And I think those are depending those are kind of the arenas that I would look at
Kat: Right. So, Cathy said you’ve worked on capturing you’ve gotten your first click and treat for a sit. And the dog is now not offering it or not moving or any of those other options, you sort of stalled out how do you fix that?
Cassie: I always consider with capturing setting up the environment in my benefit as best. I can. So a lot of my clients when they think they have a good sit. It’s usually right in front of that treat cabinet where they the reach for the treat cabine, then it happens. So if I’m not getting the behavior I need I’ll try to change the environment in my favor. So maybe I take a step closer to the treat cabinet or some- somewhere. There familiar that they need to sit or get a blanket out or something that will help them be more comfortable kind of to what Nan was saying, I trained my dog to lie down with capturing. And I was kinda waiting a while for the behavior to happen. He wasn’t set up for success. It was hardwood floors. It wasn’t carpet. So he was getting frustrated and I trained perfect down with a nice little growl in it every single time. So. Lays down there’s a “gurrr” or. Yeah. And it’s cute. I don’t mind it. But if that’s not what you want. Then you definitely have to think about getting frustration out of the picture and making sure that the environment is set up for them to succeed, especially when you get into the really weird behavior.
Kat: Right in for me. Capturing the weird stuff means that I’m not always ready. The dog offers though weird stuff, you know. And I do have treats planted all over the house. So you know, you’re going to capture the weird stuff. You do have to have things in hidden in weird places. Yeah. You want that you suddenly want that loop, right? The behaviors is ended and now we offer it again. So I’m not always ready. So I have a tendency to again move my body. I teach a lot a lot of run to the refrigerator behavior. “Yes! Good girl!”, And we run across the house to the refrigerator where I pull out whatever I’ve got. Cassie d do you have something like that? If you’re capturing like, you know, I think we always have a tendency like I’m going to capture a behavior now in them all set up. But if you want the weird stuff it really is on the fly. So how would you sort of set yourself up for success without necessarily being planned if that makes sense?
Cassie: Yeah. And I do this a lot with with my clients. I’ll have give him little jars, and I’ll say, okay, keep this one by the front door and keep this one by the potty mat, keep this one wherever in for me. I know when when I get out of bed my dog, Rugby, does a nice frog stretch on the floor, and I’ve been wanting to cash out for a long time. So treats or by my bed now in every morning. I’m ready to go. But it takes a lot longer. Because obviously we like to see a behavior happened a hundred times in a row and before we get it on cue. And with those more sporadic behaviors it can get really hard to. They’re very. Contextual for him. It’s morning stretch in. He’s not really thinking about what he’s doing. You know, frankly, he’s barely ready to eat that early in the morning. So the motivation isn’t quite there. But it takes some patience, I think I’m you have to think about the repetition you’re gonna need to get over. The course of months for it to get on cue.
Kat: Exactly. So a lot of this ferry is never when you’re gonna miss something. Right. Because you totally weren’t not even weren’t ready weren’t even ready with like your verbal marker. And it’s it is a month long. That’s why I like them because it’s sort of on of these long term projects of every time. I see this weird behavior. I’m gonna market reward it, and it gives you something to actually look for in your dog. Like, you suddenly get to learn all kinds of weird body movements that your dog does that you perhaps we’re not aware of right? Any last last thoughts on capturing? I think we’ve done some good stuff on capturing. Any last tidbits.
Nan: I think mostly just you know, it’s fun to play with. And it’s something I really encourage my clients to to to play with their dogs just because of the relationship building component one other thing, I think that needs a mention is making sure that the reinforcement is satisfactory enough, usually not your dogs kibble and less you haven’t fed them is going to get the enthusiasm level going like, maybe boiled chicken might so having good reinforces in checking with the dog as to what that might be, even toys for some dogs. I think is worth you know, looking into for anybody trying capturing.
Cassie: Yeah. And really great patience. I think we get we get frustrated in we get impatient. We wanna accused something or we’ll take something else that they give us. I think when you’re capturing you just kinda have to you have to be really patient and wait for the behavior. You want to happen.
Kat: I’d like to thank Nan Arthur and Cassie Bestana for joining us today. Talking about capturing if you have any questions or comments dropped by our Facebook page, leave a post or send us a message, and we will add your topic to a later podcast. In the meantime, train your dog.