What you'll need
1. 10 small objects from around the house such as: paper clip,
clothes pin, small cup, elastic band, piece of paper, an ornament, pepper
2. A pack of playing cards, or at least 5 items that look identical
from one side but have different pictures on the other, postcards or photos
Paper to write down the names of 5 towns or cities or
makes of car.
4. A clicker
or other marker signal (Yes, Good, Ah, There will all do. But, no
Some rewards, pennies or matchsticks or pieces
of fruit, in about a quantity of 30-50. Count them first so that your know
how many you have.
6 A friend. (not your dog
The Set up:
Sit at a table opposite each other. Spread the 10 objects out in front
of your friend. Explain to them that when they do something right, you will
click and give them a reward. Make sure you give them the reward each time
directly to their hand. Once your pile of rewards is empty then swap over
Keep the playing cards and word sheet out of sight in your lap.
Once you start you will not be able to talk, your only form of
communication is the clicker.
Sit back and wait for your friend to touch an object, any object of their
choice. They do not need to pick it up or move it, just touch it. Click when
they touch and then pay them.
Once they have chosen their first object, only click for touching that
object. Some people will see what happens when they try to touch all the
other objects as well. No click, no reward.
When they repeat the behavior, click and reward.
What Happens Next:
Look for this beginning to happen with increasing fluency. Fluency means
that the actions taken are smooth with little hesitation. Fluency is
improving when they have taken the reward and then straight away, without
hesitation, go back and touch the same object.
Just after you have delivered a reward, pick up a playing card, hold it up
and show it to your friend. If they go for the same object to touch, click
and reward. If they don't, just wait for them to make the connection. Do
this about 5 times, until they are fluently responding to the card by
touching the object.
Then, do not hold the card up, wait for a count of 15. Very likely they will
touch the object, but you will not click. You will only click from here on
if they touch that object AFTER you have held up the card.
This is called putting the behavior on cue. It is strictly considered to be
"on cue" if the behavior does not happen unless cued. So the spontaneous,
touch-try-touch your friend will be playing to that object will not be
Now take that object away and let them begin to touch another. This time you
will add a verbal cue, from your list of cities. Go through the same routine
in the exact order:
a.. The learner chooses the object (behavior)
b.. The learner repeats until they are without hesitation (fluent)
c.. You add the cue prior to the behavior (putting it on cue)
d.. You check the behavior will not happen without the cue first
Each time you add a cue to a new object, put back the ones already learned
and refresh your learner's memory as to which object goes with which cue.
Move the objects to different parts of the table, and keep the unused
objects overview all the time.
When you have reached 6 cues, 3 verbal and 3 visual take a break!
Tiring eh? When you are ready, change roles and this time be the learner.
Dogs and Horses are better than us, thank goodness, and they can't write
things down on paper to help remember either!
After that practice you have learned to:
a.. Direct the learning to a limited choice of behaviors
b.. wait for the learner to offer the behavior
c.. click and rewarded for simple behavior
d.. Wait for the learner to demonstrate they understand, i.e. fluency
e.. choose and add a cue
f.. develop cue fluency
g.. develop reliability to the cue, by withholding the cue
h.. learned NOT to click if the learner made a mistake
i.. have a fun time practicing which cue goes with which object
After this experience as a learner we hope you will have some compassion for
our brilliant animals, who sometimes forget, sometimes lose concentration,
sometimes get tired and like us, can go completely blank!
Putting cues onto behaviors is a straightforward process, but we owe our
animals enough opportunities to practice. Plan about 5 practice lessons to
every teaching lesson.