Two MORE Ways to Train Your Pet a New Behavior

boston terrier giving high five
Wee Beasties trainer with black and white dog

Written by Rachel McGuire

Last week, we learned two fun games for training new behaviors. This week, let’s learn two more! Grab a bag of small, tasty treats, a quiet place to work, and warm up your marker word or clicker hand!

Here we go!

The Armchair Game

This game is a great one to play when you’re tired from a long day of work but still want to train! It’s a bit more limited than the other games in what you can train with it, but it’s also how you get some of those more creative behaviors on cue!

With armchair training, our pet does everything except mark and reward (that’s still our job!).

That means you can only train behaviors with this game that your pet naturally does on his or her own. This can include sitting, laying down, blinking, yawning, scratching, stretching, tilting their head, and more!

Grab a seat and your gear, and then decide what you want your pet to do.

If I want my dog to lay down, I’ll just wait until they do, mark and treat, but I’ll toss the treat so that they have to get up to get it. That gives them the opportunity to lay down again! 

I’ll continue this way until my treats are gone, and I might repeat it a few sessions if my dog was still slow to lay down (like they weren’t quite sure what they were getting rewarded for).

If your pet catches on quickly, you can go ahead and add a cue to the behavior, and then start doing sessions where you cue the behavior and then mark and reward for it.

The Hot & Cold Game

Do you remember playing this game? Someone hides something and then you have to find it with your only clues being someone saying some variation of hot and cold like “warmer” or “colder” until you get “hot” and find the item?

This game is the same!

Except we don’t need a colder. We’ll only tell our pet when they’re getting warmer!

You can train just about anything with this game, but it does take a little more planning before your session. I like to start by thinking about my goal behavior, and then breaking it down into pieces that can be my “warmer” clues.

For example, for spin, I might decide that I want my dog to spin to the left all the way around until they’re facing me again. I could break that down like this.

My dog…

  • Looks to the left
  • Turns his head to the left
  • Turns his head and leans to the left
  • Turns his head, leans, and moves one foot to the left

…And so on!

You may not need to break it all the way down to moving their eyes to the left, but it’s good to know how the behavior might play out so that you can get your pet moving.

Once we have our steps, it’s time to train!

Set up with your pet, and decide what behavior you’ll start marking and treating.

Mark and treat it when it happens.

If your pet does the next behavior up on your list, mark and treat it too, but focus on step one for now.

When it seems like your pet is intentionally doing your first step, hold out for a bit more. For example, if they were looking left, wait until they turn their head, even just a tiny twitch, then mark and treat. Then repeat until your pet catches on, before moving to the next step and so on.

You might not get the full behavior in a single session, and that’s okay!

When you start your next  session, back up a few steps to get them warmed up, and then shoot for the next step. Your pet should go through the previous steps faster than last time (you could probably do one or two reps at each step).

Once you have the full behavior, you’re ready to add a cue, and from then on, after a possible warm up, you should practice having them do the full behavior when you give the cue.


Good Job!

You just learned two more ways to get your pet to perform a new behavior!


Don’t Forget

Keep your sessions short, and always end on a positive note!

If you’d like one-on-one help reaching your pet training or behavior goals, please contact me!

Happy Training!

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