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Alternate Training Method

Beginner Basics: Alternate Training Method

We generally prefer the training method of using the washcloth, as provided with your ScratchPad purchase, but we recognize that sometimes our dogs need to learn in a different way. As humans we all learn differently, so it seems reasonable to expect to need different methods for different dogs.

With this method, we teach you how to use shaping to teach your dog to use his or her new ScratchPad. The instructions are written to use with a clicker, but feel free to use any marker word or sound to indicate to your dog that he has done the right thing.

Dogs are naturally curious and many of them are eager to check out a new object in the environment. With shaping, you present the dog with an object and reward the dog for interacting with it in any way, then gradually reward for only certain types of interactions.

• Call your dog over, put the ScratchPad on the floor and if your dog shows any interest such as sniffing it, standing on it, or even looking at it, click (or mark) and toss a treat. Pick up and put down the board a few times, continuing to click and treat for interest.

• Once your dog is eagerly interacting with the board, stop rewarding for anything other than a paw (or paws) on the board - ignore sniffing, looking etc. The behaviors that are not generating a reward will be faded out, until he is consistently offering to paw the board.

• If your pup doesn’t automatically investigate the board, take a treat and lure him forward until one or more of his paws are on the board, then click and treat! Repeat! Continue until your dog is readily placing his paw(s) on the board. Finally, switch to placing the board at a slight angle and click and treat for paw placement on the angled board.

Continue to click/treat for placing paw(s) on the board until the response becomes automatic. When your dog immediately places his paw on the board when it is offered, it is time to shape the scratching!

Have you ever had a vending machine that won’t drop your chips? You were expecting the money going into the machine to result in a tasty snack! Immediately, you try harder to get the snack – you push the button harder, tap the glass, shake or kick the machine trying to get it to work. This is how you will teach your dog!

• Offer the board to your dog but DON’T click and treat when he puts his paw on it. When the reward he is expecting does not appear he will be confused and try to make the board “work”. Watch for any paw movement on the board – he may pick his paw up and put it back down again more forcefully, he may move his foot around, or he may even go right to scratching at the board in frustration. Click and treat for any increased movement on the board.
• Keep practicing, delivering your clicks and treats for the hardest kicks and scratches.
• The final goal is to create a “digging” motion, so keep clicking and treating for anything that heads in that direction! Very quickly your dog will figure it out and begin to scratch deeply, having a great time while filing his nails as well!


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