Teaching Tricks

Wouldn't it be fun to teach your dachsie to ring a bell whenever she wants to go outside, turn light switches on and off, or bring you things when you ask for them? With operant conditioning, you can teach your dog these tricks and much, much more. The key is learning how to backchain.

Backchaining involves breaking a complete task or maneuver down into very small pieces and then teaching your dog the last piece first. When the dog learns the last piece of the task, you introduce the next-to-last piece of the task and couple it with the piece she's already learned. Confused? Here's an example of how to teach “Put your toys away.”

  • Select a basket or box where you want your dachshund to put her toys. Select a favorite toy. Put the toy and basket right next to each other. Offer your dachsie a toy and say “Take it.” (Your dog should understand this command before you start.)

  • Slide the basket/box under the toy and say “Put your toy away” while offering a treat.

  • Click and treat when she drops the toy into the box. Repeat until she is consistently dropping the toy into the box.

  • Gradually move the box a littler farther away. (You're working on increasing the variable of distance.) Click and treat when she drops the toy into the box.

  • Continue to move the box farther away. Click and treat when she walks over to the box and drops the toy.

  • Bring the box and toy back together. Now you want your dachshund to pick up the toy. Since this is one of your dachshund's favorite toys, this should be relatively easy to do with free shaping. Let her pick up the toy then click and treat.

  • Repeat until she is regularly picking up the toy when you set it down on the floor.

  • Set the toy down right by the box, and say “Put your toy away.” You want the dachshund to pick up the toy; then you immediately put the box underneath. Offer the treat so that she drops the toy, and click and treat. Repeat until the dog is consistently offering this behavior.

  • A Dachshunds are fun and adventurous dogs that need your time and love.

  • Slowly move the box farther away from the dropped toy. Click and treat when she picks up the dropped toy and deposits it into the box.

The most difficult part of backchaining is figuring out how to get your dog to offer the behavior you want and breaking the entire trick into a series of actions. If your dog isn't getting it, you've probably introduced more than one variable or have moved too fast. Entire books have been written on clicker-training simple to elaborate tricks. Check them out!

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