ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Capturing Behaviors

When I use capturing for Chandler, that is exactly what it is - "capturing". I do not entice the behavior, I do not call the dog, I do not give any body language cues, I do not do ANYTHING that could be construed as "giving information" by my dog. If I am capturing, I am after something the dog freely offers, and anything else I might do just muddies the waters.

To explain a bit more - dogs are incredibly attuned to such things as eye contact, and eye contact places pressure upon them. So when I decided to begin capturing Chandler's sits, I never even made eye contact in the first place. Because if I had looked at him, he would have picked right up on the pressure of that and looked right back at me, and from that point on, he would have been preoccupied with the fact that "Mom's attention is on me" and his behaviors would have been affected by that, even if I had then made a point of looking away.

Instead, I settled down to watch TV, but made sure I kept Chandler always in my peripheral vision. And I waited. And eventually he sat. And I clicked and treated, at which point he looked at me like "What the hey?!" (but he took the treat anyway! ;-)

This first session took half an hour and I got maybe three sits.

The second session took another half hour, I'd say his sits increased to maybe five, but I still didn't think he had a clue as to what we were doing.

On the third session, he offered a sit before I was even fully settled down, I clicked and treated, he at the treat, and offered another sit, I clicked and treated, and so on. I think he gave me 20 sits in the next five minutes! Let's hear it for latent learning!

But do be aware that dogs will almost ALWAYS respond to the pressure of your eye contact, as this is very significant "doggie language". And they will discern "soft eyes" from "hard eyes" (a hard concept to explain - I hope you know what I'm referring to! :-) I swear, there are even times I think Chandler catches my shifts in focus when I am relying entirely on my peripheral vision to watch him! (Although, upon further thought, I'm sure there are other "body language" clues I'm sending out without being even aware of it - but HE catches them!)

A lot of people either don't use their peripheral vision, or have not ever thought of doing so, or may not be aware of how much peripheral vision they may have. And this is not affected by wearing glasses - without my glasses on, I can see less than six inches in focus, and yet I have almost 90 degrees of peripheral vision to each side. Have a friend help you with this.

Sit in a room that preferably has a window on a far wall. Pick something outside that window to look at. Don't stare at it, but do focus on it. Your friend should hold their hand close to and just behind one of your ears with their first two fingers pointing forward. Then your friend should "waggle" those two fingers at the same time as moving their hand forward. You will continue looking out the window, but will tell your friend when you first detect the waggling motion of the fingers in your peripheral vision.

Try this a couple of times - typically, people get better at it as they get used to what they are looking for. And you might be amazed at just how far back your friend's hand will be at the point when you can see the waggling motion of the fingers with your peripheral vision.

What this exercise is for is not so much to develop your peripheral vision as it is to make you aware that you have it. Once you gain confidence in how well you can keep an eye on your dog without ever looking at him, you will be able to utilize this tool to watch your dog and yet not add any pressure to your training sessions. This is not to say that dogs will never be able to learn to handle the pressure of you watching them - of course they can, and they will. But in the early stages, this pressure is a distraction and tends to slow learning. So anything you can do to work without this added pressure will help things move along better.

Hope this helps!

Pat B!
copyright 1999 Pat B


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