Stages of Learning

Getting your dog to sit a couple of times doesn't mean he has it in his behavior bank. For him to really get it - anywhere, anytime, on cue, quickly and accurately - Fido will need to progress through the four stages of learning. Each new behavior your dog learns will progress this way, and your dog can be in different stages for different behaviors at the same time.

During the acquisition phase, we can use luring, capturing, shaping, or prompting to begin teaching Fido the behavior we'd like. Once Fido's got the basics - we move on to fluency. In this stage, we want to repeat and reinforce to build fluency. We are ready to take the behavior on the road in

stage 3 after Fido is responding with accurate behavior with only a second between cue delivery and the behavior. Most of the repetitions happen in stage 3. This is when we train in different environments and work through distractions, distance and duration. It's also a great time to have other family members practice with Fido. You will spend the most time in this stage -- so have some fun with it! After he's accurate and reliably responding in stage 3 about 90 percent of the time - he is in maintenance.

During stages 1, 2, and 3, I like to reinforce every time I ask for the behavior. I pay Fido when he does what

I ask of him. There are some cues you will give that I recommend reinforcing every, yes every, time you give it, even if you are in maintenance. The important one is your recall cue. For other cues, you can reinforce intermittently, but remember - reinforcement is what will keep the behavior strong. If you stop reinforcing altogether, you will see the rate and frequency of the behavior drop like a lead balloon. Maybe not that dramatic - but it will certainly fall off a cliff. Yes, I am being corny, at least I can make myself laugh.

Here are the stages::

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By for now -

This is a picture of Chewie, Chief Wiggle Butt
Chief Wiggle Butt

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