While most days, San Diego Dog Training consists of sit, down, or come; on a good day I get the pleasure of training a fun yet useful behavior. I was called to the rescue of a San Diego family that had tried for years to train their shepherd mix “Cocoa” how to fetch the morning paper and bring it inside.
Cocoa, a beautiful, intelligent, and well trained dog would fetch the paper but when commanded to come, would drop the paper before running towards her owners. All Cocoa needed was a different approach to training this. While training dolphins and sea lions for the Navy Marine Mammal Program, I learned that training a chain behavior in reverse is a very quick and effective technique. First, I began with Cocoa standing on the “drop zone” (location the owners wanted the paper to be left) and had her repeatedly fetch and drop the newspaper, rewarding her each time. Then I had her move slightly closer to the door, fetch the paper, and had her owners call Cocoa to the “drop zone” and command “drop” then praise her. We repeated this routine many times, each time moving closer to the gate were the paper was delivered each morning. Thus, teaching the end of the chain behavior first, and in several steps adding on until you reach the beginning of the behavior. It took Cocoa a few minutes to fully understand what her owners had tried to teach her so many times before for two key reasons. The first being that from the beginning Cocoa was only prasied for dropping the paper in the “drop zone” making this the end goal for her. Secondly, her confidence increased the closer she got to her goal, motivating her to keep the paper in her mouth until reaching the designated location.
Thanks for the fun lesson Cocoa!