Having my dog Fibi, scratch the ground with all four paws has been a behaviour I have been working on for a while. It’s one of those behaviours you start to think about, do a couple of sessions and then life gets in the way. However recently I have picked it back up …. & In this blog post I’m going to share with you our journey so far – I hope it might be helpful & fun for others whom want to do something similar.
The first video below shows where we are currently at & then we will travel back to December 2019 as I will walk you through how we got to our current criteria.
The above video is after we had experimented with lots of different textured surfaces. The end result being Fibi scratching on this relatively firm square piece of carpet. You can also see a white square in the middle and this is my piece of sand paper. The sand paper is p400 (super super fine grit) and stuck on with double sided tape. In this video the piece of sand paper is 10cm squared and I am approximating it bigger and bigger every day in increasing increments of 0.5cm squares.
So how did we get here? One answer might be incredibly slowly hahaha… I’m just joking of course! We have approximated our way here and celebrated each approximation along the way. Although sometimes I wonder if it fits in the “one of those behaviours you wish you never started” bucket! Which is a sentiment we have seen in the ATA blog before with this offering on teaching a open mouth behaviour >>> http://bit.ly/ATA-Open-Mouth
Although I think this is just a behaviour nerds way of saying it was incredibly fun to train 😉 … you can follow the rest of our journey below;
This second video (which is actually the first lol) was from December 2019. This was an attempt by me at capturing a scratching behaviour in my home office by burying some smelly food in a container full of sand and seeing if Fibi would dig for it
Following on from this I decided to shape the front paw scratch instead and explored the idea of putting each paw on a seperate cue. This following video is also from December 2019.
I then pretty much left the behaviour until June this year (basically 6 months lol) but was thrilled to see Fibi remembered it well. Although you can see in the video I played around a bit with the antecedents and my body position to get her to use different feet this time around.
This is all well and good for scratching with the front feet but really I wanted to be able to use the scratch board with all her feet including her back two. And therefore I decided I was going to capture her scratching the ground on our daily one hour-ish long walks. It took nearly 2 weeks to get her doing it consistently and repetitively! But we got there in the end! See the below video of Fibi offering the behaviour out at the park…
Capturing behaviour = Simply ( & consistently) adding positive reinforcement after a behavior your animal already does…
Next step was to then get the same behaviour in our garden at home (and I consider this some very brave learning – sharing videos which subsequently show of my fake yellow/blue crocs lol. My Swedish friends thought I was just trying to support their country whilst training my dog 😂) …
Then Fibi & I moved this into our (new) home office. This session below wasn’t a planned one, rather Fibi just started randomly offering the behaviour inside so I quickly turned the camera on and started filming.
I was hoping after this that it would then be as simple as creating a giant scratch board lol … so I made one & started to slowly introduce Fibi to it, although I came to the conclusion at this stage Fibi wasn’t quite ready to start offering the behaviour on hard surfaces…
Which led us to our current stage and the video this blog post started of with where Fibi is scratching on the square piece of paper! We still have numerous approximations to go to get to the stage where she is helping to do her own nail care with this behaviour but I am totally celebrating how far we have already come!
This project has been the most fun & one of the most challenging behaviours I have ever tried to capture. And there were times at the park where I didn’t take my eyes of her for 60 minutes straight. Many questions were raised by me at this stage questioning if we were ever going to get there. But I’m totally thrilled we stuck with it and loving the ongoing learning that training this is providing 🥳
I’m super keen to know what has been the most challenging behaviour you have ever captured? You can let me know by leaving a comment below! I can’t wait to hear about your animal training adventures!
Animal Training Academy